The Spirit of Wisdom (Part 2)
Meditations on the Education of Youths
In our mission to reshape the American education system we must eventually meet a key roadblock restricting the students in our nation. The fact that the sheer amount of young people that must be attended to is more than can be expected of any school. This harsh reality bleeds into school policy, necessitating the control of kids just to have a peaceful environment just to have the possibility to learn.
The model of schooling that the American education system originally adapted itself from was a very local one. A town would have one school with one teacher. The children would be neighbors, often growing up together and living together in the community. But as our urban centers grew, so did the size of schools. Soon a school was not a building, but a campus. Classes and classmates became impersonal. Children shift throughout the day from one set of subjects to another. Our solution was not to reinvent our teaching systems to fit the growing number of children, but to simply make the already occurring ones larger. We have created an environment where the child is no longer an individual, but a member of the larger "class." Individual needs and attentions must be ignored so that the "class" can move forward. The reality we must accept is that the mass of students cannot be treated as such. Education does not need to be a curriculum. It does not need to attempt to be "one size fits all." We have seen the fruits of past attempts to do so, and they have not been well.
The core element that we have forgotten has been personal relationships. Relationships should be the skeleton of the American education system, not school infrastructure. Students do not need impersonal instructors who are charged with overseeing 180 children each day, they require mentors who can give them the time, attention, and tools that they need to personally succeed. We claim that education is the right of every American, but when children do not succeed in the single environment provided for them, we claim the child is not taking advantage of the opportunities presented. Learning was not made to occur in mass settings. If we can provide groups of five to 10 children with a single mentor to track with them from an early age, we already have eliminated most problems that young students face. The "No Child Left Behind" policy of the 2000s was doomed to fail because It was trying to work itself in a pre-existing structure that fundamentally did not work. With smaller, more focused groups, children will be able to work at a pace necessary for them, and educators will not be necessitated to enact policy that must ignore individuals for the good of the group. The idea of "school" does not have to be a centralized one. School can revolve around smaller communities and neighborhoods. Teachers can focus on what the needs of the community are, rather than what politicians far away guess they are. These communities need not act in isolation, either. The sharing of academic resources, ideas, and events should be key to to the success of the individual children. But all focus should be on the individual child, rather than some conception of the "youth." Educators must be able to look at the child in front of them and ask "what do they need?" and proceed accordingly. "Academic policy" should never come into question. And as education progresses, specialization can also progress. Our educators can meet the needs of the specific children they mentor rather than conforming to some federal guideline, claiming to be a one size fits all model for all children in the nation. But that is an issue that will be addressed in a later entry.