Education - The Missing Link
Dec 22, 2009 Other 2538 Views
Zeroes and ones. The basis for all things digital. The simplest possible concept underpins the most significant technological advancements of the 20th and 21st centuries.
I remember in the mid 70s doing a first year course in computer programming as part of my Chemical Engineering first year studies. We spent hours punching holes in computer cards, creating simple Fortran programmes for our massive MainFrame to read. One hole punched in the wrong place and the programme crashed. And the queues and the limited access to the great computer. Heady days indeed!
Now we have Windows 8 and Apple Mac and the internet and (almost) a home computer in every home.
We have made incredible technological advances. Problem is, there`s a bottleneck. It`s us. We`re not handling the changes very well. The symptoms are everywhere. Depression is on its way to becoming the biggest medical challenge of the 21st century. The incidence of heart attacks, high blood pressure and strokes in developed countries tells us that our modern lifestyle is taking a huge toll. In undeveloped and developing countries, poverty and its associated side effects are huge problems that require massive, co-ordinated intervention.
What is at the root of the problem? For what its worth, I`ll give you my take.
It's our value systems. Actually, it`s our lack of value systems. We all have value systems, that`s what drives our decision-making. Problem is, our value systems are for the large part dysfunctional. Typical example. Obesity is a growing problem. Do people value obesity? No. Yet they continue to make poor decisions about what they eat, how much they eat and how much they exercise. Adding to the problem is the vast array of processed food, the instant lure of fast foods, you need to be well informed and disciplined to make the right eating choices consistently. Many of us are so swamped by other priorities that we just aren`t well informed and disciplined in this area, and in other areas as well.
How do we solve the problem? By way of illustration, think of when you learned how to drive a car for your drivers test. It was a structured process. First, you learn`t the rules of the road. You can`t even consider driving a car on a public road if you don`t know what the road signs mean. You probably passed a learners test (which proved that you knew the rules of the road), then you started learning how to drive a car. Gears, clutch, accelerator, brakes, ignition, taking off, parking, the whole thing. Then you went for a driving test. If you were found competent, you were issued with a drivers license and deemed capable of driving a car on public roads.
Learning how to drive a car is a relatively simple exercise. However, the consequences of having unskilled drivers on the road are dire, and that`s why there is a process in place to qualify them for driving on public roads. No sane person would argue with that.
How do we prepare children for life in the real world? Send them out into an education system that teaches them certain skills but not the skills they really need. The skills they really need are life skills, how to think say and do in the daily circumstances of life. How to develop strong, healthy, positive attitudes, how to face adversity, how to respond and not react in difficult situations, how to listen before speaking, to not be afraid to ask questions in any situation, however silly they may seem.
These are but a very few of the life skills they need, but these are foundational to successful living.
Bill Gates, in his speech at the TED conference at Long Beach, California, in April of this year, praised KIPP for the outstanding results they have achieved with disadvantaged children by increasing the duration of education, providing a high standard of teaching, being results focussed, and having the parents, the teachers and the students all committed to ambitious education goals.
Bill Gates gave each person attending the conference a copy of the book "Work Hard, Be Nice", by Jay Matthews, a reporter with a passion for education. The book is based on the KIPP education system and its two founders.
I would like to propose that what is missing from our education system is a structured life skills approach which would prepare children for the real world out there. That is how we can take society to the next level in the generations to come.