The premise that our education system is based on is out of date
I have a long standing accord with my son wherein if he gets A's and B's in his classes, while doing his own work and taking responsibility for it (unless he needs some help, in which case I help, but its his job to get it done and keep track of it and so forth) he gets the freedom of an adult, almost, at home. In essence, if he handles his own schoolwork and gets the grades, I don't tell him he can't play video games, I don't tell him when he has to do it at night, I don't make him go to bed earlier than he needs to to sleep until he wakes up without an alarm, if he wants to sit and play guitar or drums for 2 hours thats fine, etc. Obviously he has to shower, brush his teeth, and excercise sometimes, but those are things society demands of adults anyway.
This arrangement originally came up when he was in kindergarten. I was still stone-poor then, and driving a car with a drivers side door that wouldn't open, and I think as a result he got treated fairly badly in school then, like a black sheep, perhaps. I remember his teachers telling me that he was going to have trouble in school and stuff. I decided that if he was going to grow up a poor kid, he would have to make sure he got his job done at school, so I tried to think of a way to motivate him. At the same time, experiences I had in college led me to really not want to be the parent that hyper-encouraged scholastic performance, as I had seen that have a mixed impact on kids later in life. I got a good enough ACT score to get put into the highest possible starting math classes when I got to college. Thats good. But i came from a school with 15 kids per graduating class, and had never had any math beyond algebra, so to say the least sitting down for Calc classes with a bunch of kids who'd already had 2 years of calc in high school when you were literally 3 years behind them, minimum, and had no idea what any of the terms even meant was a challenge. I will never forget how dumb I felt that first semester. I went to the library and gave myself 3 years of math education so I could learn what a limit is and so forth, got my A in the class (which if I hadn't i'd have lost my financial aid and had to go home). But flash forward 2 years and the funniest thing happened. Those wiz-kids that scoffed at first year calc and made fun of me started dropped out in droves. You see, they just didn't have the mental plumbing to do it. They'd sit in the front of the class and study and pontificate and take notes and everything. But their minds could not wrap around the concepts and they simply couldn't. Its like quick twitch muscle. I was an ok athlete in high school, but could I have ever been an olympic sprinter? No, I simply don't possess the right ligament attachments and enough quick twitch muscle, and no amount of willpower or effort can change that. Thats what was happening to these kids. Their parents pushed and prodded them their whole life to excel at this one thing: school, but eventually they just got to the point where they ran out of quick twitch muscle, err, brain cells. And then they failed, and you could see it hurting them. where once they were confident or even arrogant, now they sat there and just couldn't. Or they'd pass but you could tell they didn't really grasp the material at all from the questions they'd ask in class. In some quantum mechanics class or other, my good buddy jamal and I were the only kids that would have passed if not for the steeeeep curve. We must have been quite a strange sight. I frequently wore my boxers to class with a t-shirt and filp flops, jamal smoked weed and burned petuli oil to the point where he always smelled really funny. I don't think we fit in. lol
But anyway, I refuse to sit down with my son and push him into school heavily like some parents do because 1) we eventually have to live on our own and take responsibility for our own actions and 2) what if he just doesn't have enough quick-twitch brain cells to be a pHD in physics? He>l>l if I'll set him up for that kind of dissapointment over something that isn't ultimately that important anyway. Its not the end of the world if he's not super-smart, but it could be bad if I spend his whole life setting him up for a huge dissapointment.
The plan has worked marvelously. Thank god. I fail at everything I ever do many times before winning, but jsut try again. That option isn't so much available in parenting, lol. I probably spend 5 or 10 minutes a week helping him with homework on average, he wakes me up every day to take him to school (I don't usually set an alarm, and can't wake up for them anyway) and has never been late in 5 years, he gets his A's and B's, makes his own breakfast, and gets to do whatever he wants at night. Everybody wins.
But, then.... a couple weeks ago his mom calls me up in a panic and says "mini-check hasn't turned in any homework in 3 weeks, what is going on over there? I just talked to his teacher and she's worried about him!"
So I ask the kid and he says "Dad, its ok."
I'm like "how is it ok?"
He's like "Dad, its ok. I have a 96 in math and the teacher said our worst test for each semester would get thrown out so I figured it out and I don't have to do any more homework to get a B. If I get a zero on the last 2 tests one will be thrown out and if I get a zero on all the rest of the homework I'll get an 82, which is a B. Its like 4 points better than an 82 so its all good"
And I'm like, thinking, "holy crap. thats the wildest thing I have ever heard"
So I make a bargain with him that he should just do his homework so his mom doesn't worry, and remind him that if he gets 0's on his last tests thats fine, per our arrangement, but if he fails to learn the subject matter he may have trouble the next semester. He thought that made sense and resumed the doing of homework.
I have seen some downsides to my philosophy regarding mini-check and school. He sometimes talks about how he thinks he's pretty smart, but not super smart like some kids. I ask why he feels that way, he says "well shiela knows like every explorer like the second day we had it, I don't at all". So what shiela knew, in this case, was some stuff that was memorized, KNOWLEDGE. It has little to do with "being smart". But ... my "hands off" attitude towards school has perhaps left him wondering if he is realy smart, and like everything else, to no small extent, intelligence is a confidence game, so that is perhaps a downside that I think about alot. But thats really waht our schools teach, including colleges, isn't it? Memorizing stuff people already know. There is practically not even an attempt to teach kids how to find information and apply it, just cram some pointless information that could be googled in 5 seconds down their throats and make them memorize it. Do history classes teach the lessons history has taught mankind over and over? Like that socialism has failed every time it has ever been attempted? No, it has them memorize names and dates.
And it all leads me to this thought on the state of education and how its changed over the years:
Imagine that it long long ago, and we CAPsters were a nice french village, Capvilla, right on the coast. We toil away, living our nice lives most of the time, but once every other year or so some big, bearded, helmet wearing viking dudes show up and kick our fannies, take our gold, take our wives, and kill half of us, and slit the mayors nose. This is bad. We're getting tired of it, frankly. Its not that much fun.
But then something happens, Porte comes over from the far side of the continent with some fantastic powers... knowledge. You see, he has learned how to make a gun. And so, one fine year, we make up about 30 guns and when the Norsemen land we turn the tables and make it a slaughterhouse. Knowledge becomes power back in Norway as well, as tales are told about how you mustn't invade Capvilla because they have magic fire sticks. The vikings decide to just invade Ireland instead and we live in peace, no more slit noses, raise some kids, farm some grain, and all is well.
Knowledge is power. Absolute power. But, you see, that was then. It took Porte 3 years to travel to that far away part of the continent and he's super-lucky he didn't get killed in his journeys. And he returned with knowledge and Capvilla was saved. Guns may have existed for a hundred years, but we CAPsters couldn't know about them.
Now flash forward a thousand years. Aliens are invading and Capvilla is at risk. Then, somewhere in Montana, some innovative young ranch hands figure outhow to defeat the invaders with drinking straws, a lamp chord, some 9 volt batteries, and an apple. The information is transmitted instantly worldwide via the online implants we all have which allow us to access practically the entire sum of human knowledge instantly from anywhere. Within minutes aliens are going down everywhere around the world and we're all saved.
Right now we're probably already closer to the alien scenario than the viking scenario. The epic scope and excellence of these here interwebs have made the value of knowledge plummet like a dot com in late 2000. Today it is possible to become a fully functional, or even exceptional, chemist or investor or trader of options without getting within 10 miles of a college. Google. Today it is possible - and I have done it - to have a conversation, in latin, with someone from California via instant message even if you've never had a latin class. You just type english into an online translator and copy/paste.
Which among us knows the most about, say, home theater subwoofers? With a full time dedication to exactly that could any one of us learn as much in a few days from our couches?
We are now out of this era, which lasted centuries, where knowledge was power, knowledge was freedom, and speeding - on a Corvette ZR1 with full Akrapovic exhaust - towards a world where knowledge is nearly valueless.
An education on how to use Google will one day be far more able to produce knowlege in a timely fashion than any level of education teaching that knowlege itself. An education in how to apply knowledge once its found (an ability probably considerably innate) will be worth far, far more than any level of education as it is currently given. Now I suppose for some big east coast ivy league kind of education, its really about networking and getting the badge so you can slip into your place in the society machine, and google can't replace that, and god bless it. ...
But in all honesty, the education system as it currently exists stands precariously on the edge of being truly archaic. Knowledge is free for the taking, and the power now belongs to those willing to find it and able to apply it.
Shiela's mastery of spanish explorers can be had, in 1 minute, and in far more detail than she could memorize in a month, by typing 8 words into a search bar and hitting enter.
Times they are a changing.