Detailing my dream school

If the country decided to make me the Education Guru Extraordinaire, I would make some mighty drastic changes to the current public education system, and I would start with removing the word “system” from the mentality.

Children are not products produced in a factory.  Yet today’s methodology of education assumes that the students are the products.  Teachers are the factory workers, shaping the products.  Administrators are the managers deciding what shapes the products should become. Every product is given precisely thirteen years to maturate. The products pass quality inspections each year until finally they are stamped and herded out the door to yet another factory of secondary education.

The problem with the current way we educate students is that students are little people.  Okay, I concede that most of them are bigger than I am, but that’s not their fault.  The point is they are unique individuals, each equipped with God-breathed talents and abilities, many of which will never manifest themselves while they are constrained in 20×30 lecture-based classrooms.

Since I am now the Education Guru, I shall scrap the entire Department of Education because the federal government needs to be fired for dismal oversight and performance.  Children are being left behind, right and left, and it’s not because Big Brother needs to grow a bigger nose.  I know this is probably a pipe dream, but it’s my pipe dream, and you are reading it!  The funds going to the Department of Education will be divvied up to the states, because educating children happens on a local level.

Next, I’d throw away those thirteen grade levels. Get rid of preconceived notions that it takes every child thirteen years to learn everything he needs to know to succeed in life.  In place of the grade levels, bring back the Trivium: grammar schools, dialectic schools, and upper schools.

Children from around age five or six to eleven or twelve are in the grammar stage of learning.  Their brains are ripe for memorization.  Put them in classes of ten or less.  Memorizing is not, as current edu-speak would tell you, booorrriiinnnggg.  In fact, young children love to show off their brain powers.  They memorize through chanting, singing, actions, storytelling, rhyming — the possibilities are endless.  A wise teacher keeps her students engaged and motivated.  Grammar students generally learn, by the time they are twelve:

  • Reading.  Reading is taught through multiple methods because not every child learns the same way.  The small class size assures teachers have more time to individualize reading instruction.  Students who are already readers will read aloud to and tutor their classmates.  In no way will a child be made to feel a failure because the skill of reading has not yet been achieved.  Those who can’t read yet will listen and follow along while others read.
  • The addition, multiplication, subtraction and division facts are memorized to near-100% accuracy.  Students are taught mental math in addition to traditional instruction in basic math skills.  Students will memorize mathematical laws such as the Distributive Property, the Commutative Property and the Associative Property.  They do not have to understand what they mean in order to get the laws memorized.  Understanding comes with maturity.
  • A historical timeline is memorized so later on students will have a framework on which to place their expanded knowledge of historical events.  Biblical and other religious events will be included in the historical timeline because they are, in fact, historical events.  Students will also memorize the US Presidents.  Students will learn the geography of the US and the world through drawing and memorizing the locations of countries and capitals.
  • A scientific timeline and the periodic table are memorized so later on these students will have a framework on which to place their new scientific knowledge.  Students will read about scientific inventors through the ages and will be encouraged to innovate their own solutions.
  • Students will memorize Latin as a springboard for other languages.
  • Students will present short speeches in front of their peers on a daily basis. In this way they will become comfortable leaders and speakers.
  • Fine arts instruction will be daily, and the content will rotate every eight weeks so the teachers and students have time to delve into the topics: Drawing, Music, Art, and Orchestra.  The specific content will be seamlessly tied to the history instruction.  For example, students studying ancient history will also study Egyptian art.
  • Physical education will also be a daily event – only it will be called Recess.  Instructors will lead group games, but students will not be obligated to learn the intricacies and indignities of being picked on in dodgeball if they choose not to.  Not that that ever happened to me. Ahem.
  • Many of the memorized items above will be repeated every year.  By the time students finish their fourth or fifth year having memorized the same historical timeline, they will KNOW it like they know their own names.
  • Because they will be thrilled with their mental prowess, students will be celebrated at old-timey recitation events where parents and the community are treated not to dry test scores but to real, live students reciting — in unison — vast quantities of material.
  • Students will be taught handwriting through copy work.  Grammar and writing skills will not be introduced until students are 9 or 10, and teachers will use the Institute for Excellence in Writing as a basis for instruction and evaluation.
  • Math tests will be written, but teachers will rely on oral examinations and, in the later years, written ones, to assess whether a student has mastered the content.  Because so much of the curriculum involves repeated memorization, written exams will not be necessary as a teacher in her daily drilling can make note of those students who have mastered material and those who need more work.
  • The only standardized test that students will take will be a nationally normed test such as the Stanford 10 or the Iowa Assessment of Basic Skills.  The test will be given in April over a three day period.  There will be no teaching to the test.

Since I’m the Education Guru, I’ll put many of these grammar schools in  office buildings.  I could even put them in a parent’s place of work, with a little help from the business industry.  What if your child’s school location was based on where you work rather than where you live?  I predict — and I know these things because I am, after all, the Education Guru — that parent participation in schools would skyrocket if the school attendance was made of children of the office workers.  Why must we keep doing the same thing — neighborhood schools — when it clearly is not working?  We’d still need our neighborhood schools for those whose parents work from home or don’t work, but I can’t see why we could not have both.

Well, as Guru I decreed we shall use the Trivium to education our students.  I’ve only described the grammar schools here.  What about those kids in the Dialectic stage of learning…roughly junior high-aged students?  What will their schools look like?

That pipe dream is coming up in my next blog (or the next one)…so stay tuned!

(By the way…those of you who are familiar with classical schools and Classical Conversations will recognize many elements of my ideal school.  This is by design.  Classical Conversations has an outstanding Foundations program for home schooled grammar students.  I would love to bring the same level of learning to ALL students,  not just the fortunate home schooled ones.)

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