An Evolutionary Plan: Repair Student’s Damaged Futures from the Education System
Nothing in the education system is more obsolete, and does less to prepare students for adulthood, than the classic high school schedule of four core classes and a few exploratories. Ask the students. They report feeling extremely underprepared to meet the challenges of modern life, yet American schools insist on teaching complex maths and in-depth details of historical events instead of how to handle finances or navigate a gig economy. Students are receiving an education, but they’re not receiving the proper learning experience, and the difference is what affects their futures.
According to the official definitions, education is the process in which knowledge, values and skills are passed down at one point in life while learning is defined as acquiring new knowledge, values and skills. This difference can easily be explained through a story of a real high school student. Tiffany Cabrera, a high school senior at the time of the TEDTalk video’s publication, discusses her concern over the education system. Her class was asked a question in government class about political polarization. It made her realize that she and her peers did not know how to respond truly in their own opinion on the subject. This meant that information had just been fed to them and not taught in order for them to form their own ideas. This situation made Tiffany question the current education system. She explains that when we hear the word “education”, we think of memorizing information for a test and once the test is over, the information is deemed useless. What if we applied knowledge that we were interested in? She believes that this will help us learn not only information, but skills to be active members of society. Instead of making a silly poster project that could be scraped up in 30 minutes, students should take on a bigger project that will actually help them learn.
So it can be said that education gets in the way of our learning. Learning is an ongoing process that begins at birth and ends when we die. A baby is using the learning process when they attempt to crawl or walk just as much as an adult learning how to cook or deal with their finances. Education is only a temporary way of passing down information. In actuality, education begins at the age of five and goes to the age of 18 or possibly through someone’s mid twenties if they decide to attend higher education. After that, education ends, but learning is forever.
As someone who is currently studying education, we become educators, but we study the process of learning. There are many types of learners and there are three distinct types of learning that we all possess. Some people learn information/skills visually, others auditorily, and many kinesthetically. It is possible to adopt more than one type of learning, but there is always one type that exceeds the rest. Visual and kinesthetic learning come out on top as the most common and successful ways of learning. By definition, learning is gaining knowledge through experience and physically doing. Education is nothing other than being fed information. When I think back to my days in public school, I distinctly remember when I thoroughly learned a topic and when I didn’t. Unfortunately, a lot of the time I did not learn, mostly because my teachers just fed us information where it went in one ear and out the other or they handed out packets to read and rely on for “learning” the information. Moments where I truly learned were when my teachers took the time to have class discussions and practice using the knowledge by asking questions/problems often for us to answer.
There is a famous “Learning Pyramid” that educators use to dictate how to conduct lessons. It shows the different ways to deliver a lesson and the percentage of retention for those approaches. For example, a lecture only yields a 5% retention rate while having students teach others yields a 90% retention rate of the material. Teaching others material involves the student having a deep understanding of the material in order to relay it to others. The deep understanding comes from picking up the proper skills to learn the material instead of being educated on it. This is classified as kinesthetic learning since it is a physical practice. Seeing that 5% of retention comes from lectures shows that this strategy is more a form of education, while having students practice doing or teaching others is learning since the retention rate is so much higher. Another benefit to the practicing and teaching method is the fact that students are collaborating together in order to learn. This is specifically called cooperative learning, and the social aspect of this retention process contributes to this important life skill, which students are also being deprived of and goes hand and hand with the education problem. Teachers can use this to reflect on their lessons and compare when education is going on versus learning.
Through some word investigation, there is a clear difference between education and learning. There is also evidence of many teachers going the education route to teach their students as seen in Tiffany’s video, but we can convince them that education is not the way to go if you want students to retain information and build propper life skills. A large part of a teacher’s life is reflection on oneself. It is time for them and education systems to look at themselves more as learning systems. For these reasons, I’ve created a new system with more research gathered to improve the learning experience with a mixture of micro-lessons and a slightly restructured schedule.
The way we engage our students today should be vastly different than the way we engaged them years ago. Unfortunately, we have kept the same model of education forever and with the aspect of technology, the model just doesn’t fit the students anymore. In the book, Engaging ‘Tweens and Teens, Raleigh Philp begins the first chapter by sharing what is known about the brain and learning. Keeping education the same has not let the learning process take its course like when students used to research in books piles high. Doing so would allow them to have to read through and fully comprehend the information for their school research. Now, technology is at our fingertips and it doesn’t take much to look something up on Google, copy, paste, and then quickly forget it. It’s a phenomenon that even Philp mentioned in the book through the lense of a college student. The student’s professor asked her class a science question, and frustration shook the room. After much of this struggling, she raised her hand and said. “I didn’t care that we had to think. All I wanted to do was ‘Google it’ to find the answer.”
The answer to this is to think ahead of the rapidly evolving environment. The future of learning should not rely too heavily on technology. The students of today will develop an intolerance to learning. At the core of it, it all comes down to three main overlapping sciences, biology, psychology, and chemistry. The research in these areas help teachers understand the structure and development of the brain’s stages of maturity. Extensive research in Philp’s book shows that the brain is best at learning when it needs to survive. A typical student’s brain does not rank academic success high on the to do list for this reason, but it would if academic success relied heavily on survival in the real world. It would only be then where students would be engaged to learn because of the need of that survival in the future. Without learning crucial information, it will be very hard to live a comfortable life. Of course we do not want to enact fear into these students, but we want to make them understand that learning these specific skills are a crucial part of being an adult. This is where it is important to understand the development of students. The skills that are tailored towards adulthood are of course for the students in high school. Understanding the way the adolescent brain works will help find that perfect time to introduce these skills. Just like there is a pivotal point when a baby learns how to walk, there is a pivotal point when teenagers learn how to deal with the adult world.
It’s time to be forward thinking. We need to take the old education model and shift it with today’s changes. Take a model schedule like Model A for example. This is your typical high school schedule that has been used for years.
|Period 7||Phys. Ed.|
This schedule uses the four main core subjects along with a language and a couple of electives to balance out the school’s graduation requirements. This model is not necessarily bad, but for the new era we are in, it needs a bit of revamping. The introduction of technology into the classroom can be beneficial in the speed of the class, but as stated previously, it could be a detriment to the free thinking minds of the youth. Technology creates an instant gratification that rids the want to figure out a problem only using the brain.
A more forward thinking model would be not to require an Intro to Business class where students spend most of their time discussing business terms that have no bearing on them, unless they are truly interested in studying this in the future. For the general population of students, they just take the class to receive the credit and graduate. Instead, make a class like psychology or finance a required class for everyone. The education system can also update the curriculums in core classes such as math and english to tackle more specific life skill topics. In between learning algebra and reading Shakespeare, there can be time to learn about tax and how to develop the proper interviewing skills for a job. This new schedule would look like Model B.
|Period 1||Math (with new integrations) or Finance|
|Period 3||English (with new integrations)|
|Period 7||Phys. Ed.|
|Period 8||Child Development|
Model B, not quoting it exactly because there is some push and pull, but this layout would be much more beneficial to high school students. It incorporates a similar format to the original schedule, but there is now more of a purpose with some new curriculum or requirements. Psychology is beneficial to understanding the mind, while child development is beneficial to knowing how to take care of a child either by babysitting or a child of one’s own. Since these are classes that would inflict a survival instinct, they would motivate student’s more to learn. Another element of this model is to lessen the dependability of technology. The idea is to promote free thinking instead of the Google scavenger hunt. Technology would not be eradicated, but the use of it would be different. Students need to exercise their minds while they’re still moldable so that the idea of thinking isn’t such a painful experience. Once these changes are put into motion, the new results will slowly ease, but the future results will better prepare students for getting a job, or interviewing for a college, and much more. Overall, the practice of more conversational free thinking will allow for their voices to be heard and for them to be able to make an impact on the society they will soon be a part of.
Though this is a great change to implement on the existing American education system, there may be concerns over changing what has seemed to be an okay model for the last number of decades. Change is not necessarily a bad thing when it is not overblown. I believe in evolution, not revolution. A small tweak would not knock the balance of the rest of the schooling experience.
Although there are changes being made to core classes, the class itself is not being taken away. The normal curriculum still stands. There is just a small portion of time that is spent on life skills. This idea had already been introduced into the physical education classroom and there were very successful results. Through an experiment done in a physical education class, the results showed that in only eight 15-minutes sessions of integrating life skills, students showed “significant increases in participants’ knowledge about life skills and perception of their competence to achieve the goals they have set.” The study revealed that many life skills such as posture, decision making, and social communication provoke very physical learning opportunities. These specific life skills were perfect for this type of environment, so the short micro-lessons put into place made all the difference. There is just a question of how to teach the other life skills that don’t necessarily fit into a gym class. Those must be categorized into their proper subjects. Life skills such as learning how to deal with money or obtaining the right materials to give a successful job interview can be easily integrated into common subjects like math and english. The system of the physical education classroom can be used by allowing for 15 minutes of an hour class time to introduce small bites of these valuable lessons. If an immense impact can be made in only eight short sessions in a gym class, then imagine what can be done if it was practiced more often within the whole school.
While a reconstruction is happening within the requirements for students to graduate, it is only helping them for their future paths. A lot of the time schools create guidelines which need to be met before students graduate. They often include taking a performing arts course or a business course to expand on the skills of students. Of course these subjects hold value and they should never be taken away, but other requirements should join them to set a standard for the new wave of students that are coming through. There should be a requirement for life based classes such as child development or psychology as well as a technology based course like computer science. Adding these into the graduation requirements guarantees the whole student body to take the courses and receive the credit. They would also be structured to ensure that the skills are being taken away from the class into the real world. Often, we go into classes and do what we have to do to pass. In this instance, the definitions of education and learning stand strong. There will be no education and the simple passing of information. There will be true learning and the adapting of skills so that the requirements can hold up to their name and actually be able to aid the future generation to success.
We see a common trend in the loss of learning in the youth today. It has come from the instant gratification of looking information up on the internet and having it in seconds. Unfortunately, this has created issues when motivating the youth to actually learn themselves without the aid of technology. In another case, technology is taking over human jobs in order to make them more convenient, so there is no need for people to do that kind of work by hand anymore. While technology shifts our jobs, we need to take advantage of using our own minds to strengthen them without a computer. According to the “Does education and training get in the way of learning?” article, we must encourage students “to connect and integrate concepts to participate in the important work of the community and become ethical leaders.” If we do not, the author explains his fear of the continuous development of learning disabled youth who will seek for the simple narrow solution to complex problems. As a result, it will prohibit them from becoming lifelong learners. The lack of learning will slow the advance of other technologies since no one would take the initiative to figure out the next advancement on their own. The slow pace of learning would stop us dead in the tracks of whatever we have at the moment and time. In that case, the technology would have taken over instead of us holding the ownership of creating such advancements.
Taking a step back at this plan being laid out, it is clear that there would be no severe takeaways to the education system. There is simply the addition of learning and integration of life skills into the classroom as a whole. I can attest to a complete change of the curriculum being unnecessary and strange. This reflected when I was in elementary school, schools had a standard curriculum, but near the middle of my elementary years, the curriculum suddenly changed to a new one with an entirely new agenda called Common Core (2009). This introduced a new form of critical and specific practice of mathematics and language arts. Our classes quickly changed to incorporate the new way of teaching a simple math concept. It became more complex and the work took longer to complete. Nobody was a fan of this “revolutionary” change, even the teachers. So, in simple terms, this is an example of how my micro-lessons and the slightly restructured schedule will NOT function.
I recognize that the core schedule that we hold today is a staple and necessary to understand fundamentals, but there must be more context to the story. Students just need to understand how to apply the core subjects in order to connect them to life skills or life situations. The attention of students would be grabbed if this were to be established. A common phrase in schools is “when are we going to use this in real life?” That question can be answered by following the new road map. Once students can see the answer, they will be more inclined to learn and know that they can eventually apply what seemed like nonsense into their real lives and their futures to make a difference in society.
S, P. (2011, July 28). Difference Between Education and Learning.
The Learning Pyramid. (2020). Education Corner. (n.d.).
TEDTalk. When School is Counterintuitive. (2017, August 25).
Danish. (2006). The effectiveness of teaching a life skills program in a physical education context. Virginia Commonwealth University, U.S.
Marshall. (1997). Does education and training get in the way of learning?. Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, USA.
Philp. (2007). Engaging ‘Tweens and Teens. Corwin Press.
Common Core. (2020).