This morning politicians are peppering their purported plans for the post-election with doing something about the public (government) education at local, state, and federal level that is failing yet another generation of children. These promises are look-good, feel-good for politicians, but they never work because they keep trying to make relevant something obsolete.
Remember some of the older main waves? George H.W. Bush proclaimed himself “The Education President.” Reagan launched the private sector partnerships initiative, Clinton issued his Call to Action for American Education, and then G.W. Bush implemented No Child Left Behind. Obama is calling his program to save schooling The Race to the Top.
Certainly, enormous good will and deep concern go into these efforts, but do be wary of wasting such things down this frustrating path. Anyone considering becoming a post-2010 edu-reformer should read this WaPo article titled School reform’s meager results, written by Robert J. Samuelson when school started this year. The article gives lots of facts like these:
Since the 1960s, waves of “reform” haven’t produced meaningful achievement gains. The most reliable tests are given by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The reading and math tests, graded on a 0-500 scale, measure 9-year-olds, 13-year-olds and 17-year-olds. In 1971, the initial year for the reading test, the average score for 17-year-olds was 285; in 2008, the average score was 286. The math test started in 1973, when 17-year-olds averaged 304; in 2008, the average was 306.
Another wave of reform efforts toward established education will sputter away as well.
The extremely good news is that a new way for a learner to individually engage knowledge is about to replace the traditional education establishment role of doling out what they are supposed to learn. Children will enter schools having mastered their 3Rs using smart mobile apps. Cardboard arithmetic flash cards will seem silly to them next to what the touch screen in their pocket offers. The internet browser an older student carries will access superior subject knowledge to that watered down for school textbooks, and do so connected to full cognitive context. The college student uses his browser to connect to the best version anywhere of anything he needs or wants to know. The effect of this knowledge emerging to an individual browser is that the student learns the most authentic, recent, and complete version of that knowledge anywhere — because of the golden swamp effect. Education will finally be doing the same thing Amazon.com does to place the item you want front and center on your screen.
If you feel like making education better today, avoid getting sidetracked by political promisers. Instead, start working on some of these steps that boost the next generation of kids to their ride on the real learning wave of the future — that is about to break over failed analog education and deliver youngsters into the global golden age of learning:
Get individual mobile devices to the kids in your family, and in your town. Make sure the devices are controlled by the student and not a school.
Provide learning apps for little kids
Make sure the older ones have devices with internet browsers
Support projects that paint your locality, and the planet, with wireless
There will be more steps presented here soon, and in my new eBook, which I hope to have online before Thanksgiving. Working title: The Golden Swamp Effect