I got several email copies of comments, but several of them appear not to have made it onto the blog. As the comments were all thought-provoking and informative, (and fodder for my next post), I'd like to respost them here.
I am moved by these last two posts, Kroy! (even more by your responses to the comments on your post, than by the initial post itself!) It all makes me want to have a hand in these changes, to think about how to re-make education, but where to begin? I had many of the same thoughts after reading the "Faulty Towers" article in The Nation about the crisis of higher education. It feels hopeless, even as there are these concrete ideas.
All this has also made me think about one of my favorite This American Life episodes of recent memory, Kid Politics. I actually loved all the stories in it, but was very stimulated by the one on the Brooklyn Free School. You should check it out.
Typical school day = 8 am -> 3 pm (minus an hour for lunch) = 6hrs.
24hrs per day - 8 for sleeping - 6 in school = 10 hrs of free time.
Even with a draconian 6 hour school day, that seems like a lot of free time to engage in free thinking, spiritual growth, and various caterpillar to butterfly transformations.
Whether it's due to society or due to 13-year-old brains, most high schoolers (let alone grade schoolers) aren't concerned with philosophy and unique personal development. They're interested in figuring out how to talk to girls, pass their driving test, and get the hang of masturbation (actually, most master (no pun intended) that pretty quickly). Most spend their 10 free hours per day playing video games and watching TV -- hardly the school system's fault.
The biggest factors in shaping our youth and creating free thinkers are parents and friends. Just look at us, whether it's Andy's cheapness, Mike's beardness, or Jeff's Jeffness our parents are to blame (or applaud?). The way to get a 10-year-old thinking is to turn off the TV and offer boardgames, a sketchbook, and/or a trip to the museum (or farmer's market, or community garden, etc).
Yes, it would be nice if schools taught about environmentalism and current events a little more (I'm pretty sure I blogged about that once upon a time), but a little good parenting goes a long way in ensuring everyone eventually finds their place in the world.
Finally, I feel like no matter how society "shapes" the first 18 years of someone's life, the true transformation will occur starting the day they hit their college campus, and is not complete until at least a decade later. I don't know a single person--myself included--that was not profoundly changed by their college, and early adult experiences.
College really isn't that different than high school--you need X number of units, everyone's graded, and competing, you're encouraged to show up to class, etc--yet we see the world in a completely different way in a short amount of time. I don't know the science behind it, but I'd image this has to do with our minds being fully developed, and poised to finally take in the world around.
Heck, I personally am still transitioning. The things that are most important to me continue to evolve, as are the ways I prefer to spend my time.
From Greg, who noticed the issue himself and reposted another comment, which looks like it's sticking around this time:
It's common sense to me.
My wife's brother is an agricultural engineer. He didn't fit into school and never did well but when he had the opportunity to get an apprenticeship to a farming machine company he really achieved. He work art time and studied engineering which required advanced math.
I have to politely disagree with what jefe said. I don't think Gatto wants to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If Gatto wanted to abolish the school system then I would agree with it. Gatto is speaking about making adjustments so we can fill other sectors of jobs with qualified applicants.
Its not really a matter if its about what Gatto wants or what we want. The truth is, are these changes necessary. I would say that they are not unnecessary but necessary either. But they need to come from somewhere wither from goverment or from business.
We have a lot of academically educated people with no jobs because the job sector for their jobs are unfilled. BUt we have a ton of demand for trade jobs.
The solution is good for children. My thinking these days is my own education, though its admirable what you are proposing for our children. Many of us had problems in school that we just had to deal with at the time. Some of us our looking for re-education and we can't get far.
Clinton had this to say about our structural problems. It is a pragmatic offering with what we have right now.
"For the first time in my lifetime, literally in my lifetime, when coming out of a recession, posted job openings -- that means they'll hire you tomorrow morning if you can do the job ... are going up at twice the rate of job hires. ...
There are two reasons for this. One is more than 10% of us are living in houses where the mortgage is worth more than the home, so we can't move. And that's cutting down on labor mobility, which has always been a big strength of America. But that's way the smaller problem.
By far the bigger problem is the jobs that are open don't have applicants that are qualified to do them. There's this huge skills mismatch. [There was a] huge college dropout in the last decade because costs went up 75% after inflation, and because the economy went down people had to drop out to work, and they cut back on a lot of intensive skills training.
We ought to have a list of every job that's been vacant for more than three weeks, by state, and just give 'em the money to train people immediately. And they ought to be able to do it while they're on unemployment. Give it to the employers if the community colleges and the vocational programs won't do it. ... You know how many jobs that is? Five million. The unemployment rate could go down under 7% if no bank made a single loan [and] if no corporation invested any of their surplus cash -- if we just made sure that tomorrow we had qualified applicants to go fill every posted job openin"
What is clear is that our lack of flexibility is hurting us and keeping many from going into professions that many of us would rather do or give us time to try on different things without a huge debt to pay off.
(My response will be posted shortly...)