Surfer Rob is just another Brick in the Wall

Do you ever think about education reform?

(Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

It’s really a hot-button issue, especially in the world of education; I was once leveraging myself into a position from which I might be able to enter that world as a working stiff – i.e., a teacher of English and writing – but I was actually sidetracked by the vagaries of life. To be honest, I don’t regret it at all or even feel a need to go back to that for several reasons. One is the fact that college education is very expensive, even when you’re going to a public institution. Another is the nagging doubt, the lingering suspicion that you’re going into a fad degree that will leave you floating helplessly in an overstaffed job market, although that’s pretty much taken care of by the fact that a lot of teachers don’t make it to the five year mark before changing the direction of their careers altogether. The big thing, though, is that regulation is getting tough.

Education Reform Bill Signed Into Law
(Photo credit: CT Senate Democrats)

In the interest of providing a better education for the American youth, the government keeps pushing through legislation with varying degrees of failure, and usually it involves some incentive for a school to get better test scores from their students – a system of rewards and punishments, as it were. But the problem is (and you’ll hear it from the entire establishment, as well as all through school if you’re actually going to try to be a teacher) that the government, while supposedly using education professionals to design these programs for improving schools, seems to be coming at it all wrong. The programs are causing panic among school administration because they expect results that are too drastic, too soon. The anti-incentive usually involves cuts in government funding, which is the lifeblood of a school. The administration jumps on the teachers’ backs and start pounding. The teachers’ reactions are often to start teaching students how to answer the specific questions on the tests, circumventing important contextual learning and giving no regard to individual students’ interests or preferred learning styles; not to mention the pressure, the tension, and the stress only gets worse as it filters through to the ground level – the students whose interests these laws propose to protect. The teachers sometimes even resort to cheating on tests, which sets a bad example for the students!

So here’s a question: can we do it better? Here’s my short answer: yes we can. Can I design the law? Absolutely not. But here’s a few things that come to mind:


It’s obvious that technology is a big deal. Teach them all to use it at a base level; I’ve been saying that since I was in high school. Most of that is no big deal anymore, considering these kids are born with a smartphone in one hand and a cash card in the other. But the important thing to remember is not to forget about . . .

Old-school basics:

They need to learn to write by hand. They ought to be doing it daily. They really should be doing a good portion of it in cursive. I honestly don’t care how they get their reading as long as they read something, but writing is an activity that has a ginormous impact on brain development. Don’t leave it out and don’t let them give up on it, because it makes a big, big difference. They also need math. Everyone seems to have a calculator at hand nowadays, but they still need the skills to do it longhand and on paper. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, long division, and simple algebraic problem-solving. Those are the mathematical avenues to normal daily function in modern society. If they want to take it further, great. If not, they still have access to about 70% of the professional job market, at least. (Dear U.S. government: not everyone is cut out for STEM professions, and we still need nurses and construction workers.) How can we best impart knowledge to our young?

Hands-on learning:

I’m a huge believer in hands-on learning. Give it a context, show them how to do it, throw them into several different situations that require a similar treatment so that they can learn not just the skills, but to employ them in a flexible manner that gives them the tools they need to exemplify the awesomeness of being an intelligent human being. Teach them how the box works, and then show them how to think inside and outside. I’m also a huge fan of physical props where appropriate, because more people are visual and hands-on learners than the educational system seems to realize.

Mme. Ross and I have discussed the possibility of homeschooling our children before, and the option remains on the table. I know we have the ability to do it, if not the tools to do it to the government’s satisfaction. If we were to do it, I think we would probably focus on the essentials of reading, writing, arithmetic – and I guarantee the technology would take care of itself. I’m the original tech-savvy, and I know my kids are going to be the same.

Work by Banksy
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my honest opinion, a lot of the world seems a little too fixated on getting every child into a high-flying professional position, which seems to leave many people unhappy and unfulfilled, feeling ostracized and to some extent used – used like a tool; and that’s because they have been used. It’s a game to those who control the media. They’re trying to build a wall with us, with the elite on one side and on the other side are the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free; the wretched refuse of our own teeming liquor stores; the homeless and the tempest-tost! Where’s the golden lamp, my friends? It’s really meant to light the other side of the wall. The fact is, the majority of America’s elite, that top one percent, wants to leave the rabble in the dark – because they only need us to do the dirty work for them. Make their lattes and their steak dinners, install their appliances and mow their lawns. They want us to do it, and they want it cheap. So why play their game?

A wise man once said that if a person can get a job doing what they like to do then they never have to work a day of their lives. Perhaps that’s a little pie-in-the-sky, but why not just work toward developing the kids’ natural abilities to their fullest extents and let them be who they want to be? In the end, their happiness is all that truly matters. What they really need to learn is that they can choose to be happy.

All other education is secondary to that.

What do you think? Am I a whacko nutjob, or what? Feel free to add your voice, I’m always looking for a good conversation!

This post was prompted by today’s Daily Post prompt


  1. Yep. I don’t know how to give awards, but I’d give you one. I don’t even know what they are. Your kids would be welcome at my school as day students because seems like they have straight-up solid parents to go home to.

    • We do our best 🙂

      Even if we do send them to public school, which is on the list of possibilities, we plan to be very much involved with the educational process, as I have seen the difference it makes in a student’s overall progress.

  2. I did read an article today in a paper saying that one of the political party’s in Norway wants to remove computers from the schools.

    And since I am back at school I can say that I agree, most of the students don’t take notes- they Facebook, watch movies or just goggle the solutions to all the questions.
    I have chosen to take my notes “old school” and probably benefit more from it. Of course when delivering my papers it’s all done on a computer(mainly because they are sent to the teacher via the thingy-system-thingy).
    I don’t believe that the computers are really helping anyone at school, not even the ones with reading and writing issues. It’s more like giving them crutches- here you go, just use spellcheck and you’ll be fine!

    When it comes to math, most of the people I had the class with didn’t know how to do the basic in their head, we are used to calculators helping us out all the time. I guess they did struggle a bit on the first part of the exam – no calculators or books were allowed, just a ruler and your own brain!

    As for college I will be 28 when I start and 31 when I finish. I have finally figured out what I want to do!

    • Yeah, that’s definitely an issue with computers, isn’t it? When we discussed technology in pedagogy classes or when I spoke with teachers about it in practicum, it seems as though they really preferred to use it sparingly to deliver some enriched content rather than have students using computers all the time, because that’s what happens – they lose focus. Even when we’re on the computer blogging, we have this dastardly temptation to check this, status that, and oh I wonder if this debit posted to my bank account? It’s very distracting indeed, and like I said there’s no way at this point that computer literacy is a problem. It’s becoming a disorder that’s pushing out the traditional literacy that made society what it is today. I don’t think we should lose that!

      It’s also a problemo in college, as you pointed out with your fellow students – I saw it with mine as well and I had my own share of distractions with classroom computers, but I valued my education and so I did keep myself in line and on track – you’ll have that in any class with computers, I’m afraid, and in the end those people are adults and have to live with the consequences of what they do. That’s all I ever feel about that, because if they get by it’s kind of unfair and if they don’t it’s their own dang fault. 🙂

      But hey, congratulations on going back, it’s always inspiring to figure things out and set out on a new adventure!

  3. Hi Rob – as an ex-head teacher under the British education system, I am a self-confessed idealist. Our system has become a lot like yours: bent on getting higher test results. That leads to very narrow teaching. And indeed, we recruit very narrow teachers. It takes a strong leader to rebuff the pressure coming from central government and our regulatory body, Ofsted.
    Really great education is a combination of things. A zero-tolerance attitude to core skills with – as you have pointed out – a repetitive, daily attitude to the basic skills which are the passport to the rest of learning. But we need to be unshackled from politics. As long as politicians can use education to get to middle class voters – which they do ruthlessly here – teachers will always be part of a ford-style assembly line, churning out people to pass tests. But the great inventors and creators of our time had a much wider experience of education. They learnt how to explore for themselves and adore their chosen disciplines. We need to go back to the drawing board if we are to raise exceptional learners.
    I am with you 100 per cent. Home schooling seems one of the only ways to allow a child to progress well AND become the person they were meant to be through education.

    • Oh Kate Shrewsday, I love you because that means I’m not a crackpot! That’s a great point about how politics ties into education, and I think at this point the only way to untangle it is to pull out entirely; because the people demand better education and the politicians are like “absolutely! Here you go!” and then as long as they’re doing something I think they’re happy to let it run its course and it’s pretty much devastating the way of life that we grew up with, which is traditional classroom education.

      We could definitely go back and make it richer without the state getting involved!

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