Barack Obama entered the presidency with an opportunity to overhaul the disastrous education policies of George Bush, but his initial decisions indicate he has failed to grasp the implications of what should constitute education in the 21st century. On one hand, the president makes clear to the automobile industry it will not receive any money until it ceases producing cars that are not consistent with needs of the new century. On the other hand, he is willing to give education billions of dollars to an education system that is producing the wrong product and can’t even do a good job in that failed effort. We need a new education system that meets 21st century needs, not an education system that is teaching the wrong curriculum in ways that are outmoded.
At the core of a new education system is a curriculum that is consistent with needs of children. A kindergarten child who enters school this September will graduate high school in the 2020s, have a mid life crisis in the 2040s, prepare for retirement in the 2070s and may well witness the birth of the 22nd century. That child does NOT need an education which requires memorizing material which is fed back on tests. They need an education which unlocks the creative and critical thinking capacities of each child. They need an education process which empowers youth to become learners because during the course of their lives, they will have to learn and learn how to switch careers. No Child Left Behind which Obama supports dumbs down education into a series of tests which transform children into robots who recite and memorize.
The teaching of history has disappeared from elementary school because teachers want more time to teach for the test. The teaching of history at the secondary level is a test case in incompetence. At a time when Americans need to learn how to learn, at a time when American youth needs to learn economics and dealing with diverse human behavior, children devote their time memorizing unimportant facts to feed back on a test.
We are entering a Fourth Revolution in education. The First Revolution happened 70,000 years ago when our ancestors learned how to speak and to express themselves in visual ways. The Second Revolution happened 6,000 years ago when they learned reading and writing. The Third Revolution happened 200 years ago with the introduction of government organized schools and people called teachers who handled education. In these initial three revolutions, the goal of education was to impart information concerning basic skills and attitudes. The Fourth Revolution is now happening. In it, youth can receive information and also is now able, due to technology, to become creators of knowledge. Barack Obama’s education policies are linked to the Third Revolution, not to the emerging Fourth Revolution in education.
Please write to the president and insist we need to take a step back and figure out the nature of 21st century education rather than spend billions on an inept, outdated approach to educating youth.