Proposals for an Educational Renaissance

September 4, 2010

in Education

I love this suggestion… shows like “How It’s Made” and the like introduce ways of thinking about problems and running projects that have much more real-world applicability than so much of the “knowledge” kids have to memorize and be tested upon. Read the rest as well… via Zombie » Proposals for an Educational Renaissance.

Introduce and popularize “skills survey” courses

Too much of our school curriculum is totally disconnected from the skill-sets needed to succeed in the real world. Even students who get good grades in history, art, social studies and science can graduate without a clue about how to get a job or what they even want to do with their lives.

Not every student is going to become an academic or have a liberal-arts-based career. To correct this glaring deficiency in our educational priorities, I propose that all public schools introduce a new type of required course in which students are briefly exposed to a wide variety of realistic careers and skills to help them decide what they may want to do upon graduating from high school or college. These skills-survey classes should always be not graded but instead be given on a simple pass/not-pass basis — students pass just for showing up and participating. No tests, no quizzes, no assessment — just observation.

The purpose of the class is exposure — to let students sample real-world careers, and get a taste of skills unknown to them. Even if a student doesn’t ever get a job in any of the fields covered by the course, he or she will learn how the world works. Each section can last anywhere from ten minutes, to an hour, or a week, or any level in between — just enough time to explain and demonstrate the basics. Examples of skills or careers covered by the course can include (but are not limited to):

• Retail skills, such as how to operate a cash register, order products, keep track of inventory;

• Carpentry and basic home repair;

• Basic contemporary computer skills, such as how to send an email, set up a blog or Web page, do simple programming, etc.

• Business and entrepreneurial fundamentals, such as how to identify an untapped market, found a small company, deal with government regulations, etc.

• How to effectively win an argument, or engage in an adult-level debate; a brief survey of logical fallacies;

• A visit to a hospital to learn the basics of nursing skills, and see what doctors do in real-world settings;

• Car repair; and the briefest explanation of how engines, carburetors, transmissions, etc. work;

• The basics of electrical circuitry, and what an electrician does;

• Plumbing, and how the plumbing system works;

• Gardening fundamentals, and how to grow your own food;

• Data entry (formerly known as “typing”);

• Any ideas or field trips which teachers can arrange, such as: visiting a local airport and sitting in the pilot’s seat of a small aircraft; going behind-the-scenes at a local television studio; going on a ride-along with the police or fire department; etc.

• …and so on; the options are limitless.

In each case, the exposure will necessarily be brief and very incomplete, but that’s OK; the goal is not to master every skill covered, but rather to be exposed to a wide variety of skills and careers that may spur interest for later pursuit.

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