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More notes on the "new curriculum" More notes on the "new curriculum"
by Joseph Gatt
2020-12-10 10:44:35
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In the 19th century and early 20th century, school was about training good soldiers.

In the mid-to-late 20th century, school was about training good factory workers.

This century, school should be about training workers who are able to satisfy client and customer demands (in my humble opinion).

What do I mean by that?

educa01_400In the 19th century, school was about training good soldiers. That meant respect and deference to the teacher. That meant saluting the flag. That meant religious education and faith in God (because you need that on the battlefield). And that meant studying history, geography, war-time heroes. And that meant discipline, getting beaten if you don't obey orders, and asking permission for everything. And girls were trained to be good wives, trained to be good mothers, and were taught knitting and lullabies.

In the post-World War II years school was about training good factory workers. Important note: until the 1990s, setting up a factory was a very, very expensive investment. Machines cost a fortune. Getting machines to work cost another fortune. So factory products were scarce, and competed with hand-made products in many countries. Today hand-made shirts or neckties are a brand of sorts, but in the 1980s, they were not a brand but actually a necessity. Some countries did not have factories at all.

So when you train factory workers, you teach them repetitive tasks. They repeat their multiplication tables dozens of times. They copy some text passage dozens of times. You train them in dexterity and make sure they have “beautiful” handwritings. You train them in accuracy and attention to detail and punish them for small spelling mistakes. You make them memorize passages and poems. And you make sure they sit for hours on end. And you punish them and humiliate them for being 3 minutes late or for not doing their homework.

But today, factories are rather cheap to set up. There are too many factories competing against each other. There is an oversupply of manufactured goods, meaning that people have to turn manufactured goods into “services.” So you have restaurants using manufactured goods to come up with original recipes, or “fashion coaches” turning manufactured fashion items and teaching you how to dress “properly.”

And at schools, you have what academics and scholars like to call “T-NAP” or “Teaching for No Apparent Purposes.” That is teachers are no longer sure what they are supposed to teach, given that the curriculum does not match the realities of the economy or job market.

So how do you fix that?

I'd say elementary school should remain what it is, a basic stage where children learn how to read, learn math, and learn how to write. And then they are kept busy with basic science, history, geography, physical education and language lessons. The main goal of elementary school is reaching a decent level of literacy.

Middle school. I discussed this last time. But I'll give a few more details. The way I would conceive middle school is a series of short-courses, some in broad fields, others in very specialized fields. The short-courses would last something like 2-3 weeks, maximum one month.

The short-courses would have very specific learning objectives and targets, and should enable students to move on to the next level. You would have level 1 Algebra, level 2 Algebra, all the way to level 9 Algebra. And then each school will decide what the requirement is, perhaps that any student should at least take up to level 4 Algebra, and that only those very motivated students can take up to level 9 Algebra.

Same thing for what I call “written expression” or “essay writing”. You'll have level 1 to level 9, and students will be required to take up to level 3. Then you have geometry, same rules. Then you have biology and physics, same rules. Computer science, same rules.

Then you can have teachers come up with ideas for electives that they want to teach. Maybe calligraphy. Maybe acting. Maybe choral singing. Maybe small business management. Maybe ancient Greek and Roman civilization. Maybe a course in Maltese or Catalan or some lesser-known language. Maybe film directing.

The idea of these short-courses is that while some students will want to stop at the basic level, others students might find their passion and vocation and calling. They head home and binge on YouTube videos about the subject. They hire a tutor to help them with the subject. If it's acting they've fallen in love with they might join an acting school. If it's that Maltese class that impressed them they might spend the summer in Malta studying the language.

Plus, this curriculum would really make students look at options other than university or college. Perhaps they took computer coding up to level 9 in middle school and up to level 9 in high school, and they could join some apprenticeship program at Google or Yahoo or any tech company, do the 6 month intensive course, and get hired for the job directly.

Or perhaps it's those level 9 math classes coupled with level 9 computer science classes coupled with learning in their free time that led them to design computer games that they sell to EA Games, and they eventually get hired by EA games straight out of high school to develop other computer games.

Or perhaps it's those small business courses coupled with working part-time at a grocery store that leads them to consider directly starting a small supermarket a couple of years after graduating high school.

Or perhaps they took level 9 biology, but they can't afford medical school yet, so they take a short-course in nursing and become a nurse.

Or maybe their school offered a class titled “the science of flight” where they learned in-depth about how airplanes work and a little bit about how to pilot an airplane, and they find out that universities don't offer commercial airline piloting training programs but there are private schools that train licensed pilots.

And if the students decide that it's college that they want to go to, universities probably should offer the kind of training that matches the realities of today's workplace: satisfying customers.

That is unlike the old days where factories were scarce and where there was little choice as to what manufactured product you could produce. In today's work, if you're going to college, you really need to be trained in how to come up with optimal products that leave customers satisfied and want to come back.

There's the sales aspects of course, but there's also the production and engineering aspects, and the management aspect.

So much more I could say, but I'll leave it for another time.

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