Monday, June 19, 2006

School 2.0, American Education on Learning Steroids

The latest ruling in Colorado that allows common law marriages for 15 year olds underscores an important phenomenon in American teenager's biology and cultural reality. Children are maturing faster than ever before.

This is not to imply that they're smarter or more capable of succeeding on their own - simply that they are different. Add to this reality the acceleration of technology that they swim in and we are looking at an entirely different sociological phenomenon.

Yet our schools haven't changed aside from cosmetic arguments and methodologies intended to obfuscate the shame second-class education being delivered on silver platters to the poor.

School needs to change forever.

First, the Jr high school years need to be recalibrated from grades 7 - 9 to 7 - 8.5. Teens should start high school in mid-year of eighth grade. They are old enough for it and the senior-itis that afflicts these teens will diminish due to the necessity of learning the new high school environments.

For the high schools, this half-semester is an opportunity to recalibrate the curriculum to learn about this class of students intimately with testing and guidance.

At the high school level, the same metric will apply. Second semester seniors will need to leave the building to perform their last semester. This means a semester of earning college money, directed study, or volunteerism. Again, senior-itis is eliminated, local businesses and non-profits acquire an inexpensive talent pool, and students get a taste of real life.

And, as long as we're re-inventing school, let's make NCLB testing optional. Those parents who want it for heir children can request it, those who don't can eliminate the headache, schools will save money and regain some interest. The true finding of NCLB testing is this: the more emphasis schools put on learning the so-called core competencies, the worse the result.

There's a good reason for this effect. Learning isn't an exclusive function of compartmentalized knowledge nor do children learn in a linear, progressive fashion.

The School 2.0 movement (I'm feeling my oats today), instead recognises that all children are unique and learn in symphonic harmony with the maturity of their biological and environmental stimuli. For curriculum this means eliminating hierarchical curriculum schemes with right-sized learning.

School 2.0 will require as much intensive upfront learning as communities can provide. Head-start programs, healthy eating initiatives, recommended entertainment venues, and nap time opportunities must become standard fare. Arithmetic will be mastered by grade 7.5 or remedite in the first year before taking higher math courses.

In the high schools, cross-departmental and cross-grade level learning initiatives must become at least 50% of every student's curriculum. And here, I can already hear the groan of teachers who will say, "We already TRIED that and it didn't work so get off our asses." Sorry, try it again, this time in harmony.

We'll develop School 2.0 together. Let's think and talk. The future's rushing this way.

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