US Needs to Dump Its Entire Terrible Education System
It hurts our kids, and there is a better way: Peter Gray
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted Aug 26, 2013 1:28 PM CDT
Updated Aug 26, 2013 1:47 PM CDT

(Newser) – People talk a lot about how to fix our educational system—but the only real answer is to get rid of it, or at least its traditional components, writes research professor Peter Gray on Salon. Gray, an expert on psychology and how children learn, points out that schools today retain the basic blueprint developed during the Protestant Reformation, when the purpose of schooling was to turn out students who would obey without question. "The top-down, teach-and-test method, in which learning is motivated by a system of rewards and punishments rather than by curiosity or by any real, felt desire to know, is well designed for indoctrination and obedience training but not much else," Gray writes. It's no surprise that many of history's greatest minds hated school.

School should be a place that nurtures "critical thought, creativity, self-initiative, ability to learn on one’s own." Instead, evidence shows most students are "burnt out" by the time they reach high school or even middle school, and many of them feel increasingly negative about the subjects they're being taught. But it doesn't have to be this way. If children were allowed to learn the way they naturally do—remember that before reaching school age, they've taught themselves to walk and talk, among other things—then school could be joyful rather than punishing. What's the answer? Gray recommends home-based schooling or "democratic schools," where students direct their own learning. Both types of schooling have been found to produce highly successful young adults, Gray writes. His full column is worth a read.

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Sep 7, 2013 10:37 PM CDT
I have read several of the comments posted here - some good insight from people that either work in the trenches or have family member that do. What I have always found amazing is that every politician of every party campaigns on, and demands, MORE money as the solution to our declining educational system. Where is all that money going? Teachers all claim to grossly underpaid for their 8-9 months of work. Every school semester our grandchildren bring home a big list of school supplies that we are expected to buy. The list includes multiple units of the same thing that end up going into a class "pool", not for our student, for all the students to draw from - so the taxes can't be going for school supplies. We had a good friend who was V.P of a major school district. Her explanation of the wasted money was that the NEA and federal government are constantly imposing requirements on schools and teachers without allocating any additional funds to accomplish the task. She said that money is diverted from general education students for special education students and their "pet" projects.. The S.E. classes are small and teacher intensive with high expenses and little accomplishments, this is done at the expense of taking money from the bigger group of students that could learn and benefit from more resources. With todays' permissive culture parents don't parent, teachers can't enforce discipline and no one is held responsible.
Sep 1, 2013 1:20 PM CDT
Parental irresponsibility is one of the biggest factors in our failing schools. Teachers are expected not only to teach, but to reform children who have never been instilled with a moral compass. If teachers are not able to do it- THEY'RE the perceived failures- not the parents. I can't count the times I have seen a TV interview of a parent outraged about how the school system failed their out of control kid. Why are we wasting our teachers, time and resources on kids who are disruptive non-participants, violent physically and verbally to other students and teachers?. A 6'ft, 200 lb 14-year-old thug should not be wasting the learning time of serious students by commandeering all the teacher's classroom focus just to keep them in their seat. Kids like this should go directly to an alternative school so that the teachers can teach the kids who want to learn. Civility needs to be taught as a secular subject in our schools- because kids are not going to learn it from TV reality shows or the highly sexualized, violent and misogynist entertainment industry where kids find many of their role models. Religion and politics dictating what is truth and what is theory in our schools has got to end. Although Christians like to refer to evolution as a theory, it has been PROVEN to be a fact. For teachers to be forced to teach the storybook version as an equally significant science is an embarrassment to our nation in front of the world.The Texas school board is filled with right wing Christians who believe that questioning the Bible version of anything is heretical. They have gutted Texas textbooks and refilled them with not only Bible based science, but with racist and bigoted takes on important historical events. (They even wanted to remove the word Democracy from their textbooks, replacing it with the word "Republic" for fear the word might be mistaken for "Democrat") They have questioned the need for critical thinking, without which there has never been, or never will be, an advancement in scientific research. School is where our children learn how to live and function in a society. Today's students are being taught how to survive being injured or killed at school. Driving a school bus has become a dangerous job, filled with violence, chaos and bullying, for which drivers are paid minimum wages. Something is terribly wrong with this. Constantly teaching children that everything they do is wonderful, that they can be ANYTHING they want, whether it's in the realm of their capability or not, and telling them they should decide what they want to learn and how they learn it has not worked and will not work. We need to stop the thinking that children know more than anyone else about how they can reach their goals. One of the reasons teachers are viewed as powerless and ineffective is because they have lost the ability to teach due to the curriculum being set by people who are not educators. Sorry about this stream of conscious-style comment, but it really irks me when the obvious is overlooked to spare the feelings of the people who actually failed us.
Aug 27, 2013 9:09 PM CDT
Agreed..... I think all your kids should be self-directed, do "fun" learning, "seek" awareness, and all that other bullshittt. My kids, who can read, write, spell, speak, listen, integrate, compute, calculate, learn from history, and reason will have SUCH A HUGE ADVANTAGE over your intellectually crippled parasites, that they will rule the world. Great idea !!