Tuesday, December 19, 2006

US Education--What Will It Take To Make It Work?

The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workplace has released a new study on the state of education in the US. That would be allright except--they also released a big set of recommendations on how to solve the huge problems they identified in the US educational establishment. These recommendations are already starting to cause waves--tsunamis, in fact.

They declare that America's public education system, designed to meet the needs of 100 years ago when the workplace revolved around an assembly line, is unsuited to today's global marketplace. Already, they warn, many Americans are in danger of falling behind and seeing their standard of living plummet.

In its place, the group proposes a series of controversial reforms:

• Offer universal pre-kindergarten programs and opportunities for continuing education for adults without high school diplomas.

• Create state board exams that students could pass at age 16 to move either on to community college or to a university-level high school curriculum.

• Improve school salaries in exchange for reducing secure pension benefits, and pay teachers more to work with at-risk kids, for longer hours, or for high performance.

• Create curriculums that emphasize creativity and abstract concepts over rote learning or mastery of facts.

"We've squeezed everything we can out of a system that was designed a century ago," says Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, and vice chairman of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, which produced the report. "We've not only put in lots more money and not gotten significantly better results, we've also tried every program we can think of and not gotten significantly better results at scale. This is the sign of a system that has reached its limits."

The report is getting attention in part because of those involved - people like William Brock, the former senator and Reagan-era Labor secretary; John Engler, National Association of Manufacturers president and former Michigan governor; and Joel Klein, chancellor of New York's public schools.

It's also unusual in its scope and ambition, looking at public education in the context of changes in the global economy and workforce needs, and examining education for everyone from preschoolers to adults.

The esteemed contributors to the report understand that the US educational system is corrupt to the core, and must be reformed. Unfortunately, they appear oblivious to the rot at the very core of factory education--the separation of school from responsibility and the real world.

Until the public understands the dysfunctionality of the very idea of age-segregational schooling, and the psychologically neotenous methods of education being used, the destruction will go on.

Psychological neoteny is a sad legacy to leave the future, because the neotenous will be unable to stand up to the challenges of the future.

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