Monday, March 16, 2009

Practical Education

What is the point of all this formal learning we expect schoolchildren to do: the endless assignments and tests?

One stock answer to this question is that it teaches them how to get things done. That would obviously be learned better in the real world than in school.

The somewhat more plausible answer generally given is that schools are “teaching students how to learn and how to think.” Those skills are also better learned in the real world.

The only thing that formal schooling is good for is learning an academic topic itself. But why must every student learn Algebra through Calculus? Why must every student learn how to deconstruct Catcher in the Rye? If a student finds in learning basic math that he would be interested in pursuing it further, then it would make sense for that student to learn higher math in order to possibly use it in his career. The same goes for literary studies. But this would not be the case for everybody.

Intellectuals who consider educational goals are too enamored with their own interests. And those interests generally do not include producing something the market, when left to itself, highly values. (That’s why they’re always lobbying for policies which create artificial markets for their services.) So educationalists are none too interested in business savvy. But business skill and knowledge are the most productive sets of skills and knowledge in the world. The most important information are (as Friedrich Hayek showed) profit-loss facts on the ground that inform the billions of price decisions that make an economy maximally prosperous. So real-world outside-of-school education is not only much better for a young person’s character; it makes the young person smarter in ways that are actually beneficial to the student (and to others in society).

Rich, rewarding, prosperous lives need not (and should not) start in one’s mid-20s. Education and productivity should be intertwined and mutually reinforcing strands that run throughout a person’s entire life. They should not be compartmentalized the way they are now.


Junker said...

Posted as a source of ideas and experiences. It might be helpful:
Robinson Curriculum Home Site
PDF of whole site

A view of US education system:
The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto

Fun reading on educ v training, &c:
Four by Richard Mitchell, "The Underground Grammarian"
The Gift of Fire
Less Than Words Can Say
The Graves of Academe
The Leaning Tower of Babel

Chao Ren said...

Are you familiar with the writings of John Taylor Gatto?