P911. Our schools are OOT. Our classes once had PANS, but today kids are BTD.
If you can decipher that, you are probably under 25. More importantly, this new lexicon is the wave of the future and few in education understand where it is leading the next generation.
With the introduction of the iPhone 5, it is striking that a world that is changing, engaging and developing so rapidly has an antiquated education system—born of the late 19th century, teaching many skills that are no longer relevant. The methods fail to hold the attention of students weaned on technology, who, in many cases, are more advanced than their educators in utilizing that new technology.
Reading is essential, but the focus must be on critical analysis. Stanford just added critical thinking to its general education curriculum. But if you are in college and you don’t know how to absorb and analyze information, you are already behind. Too many people believe what they read on the Internet, and engineers with degrees have skills that are often antiquated and obsolete as the pace of technology accelerates.
Further exacerbating the problem is the elimination of the most important subject that can be taught in schools—history, government and citizenship. The Constitution is not taught until the 8th grade, and the understanding of the document, critical to the life of our democratic republic, remains obtuse to most of the general public. The rise of the Tea Party is in direct correlation to their complete failure to understand that for which they claim to fight.
The same document that protects their free speech rights and right to bear arms also protects illegal immigrants from abuses, provides for equal treatment of all citizens regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, makes marriage a fundamental right, provides for due process for all people and establishes the rights of even Muslims to worship freely in the United States of America.
Reading and writing are still important, but teaching kids cursive writing in the age of texting, is akin to our generation being required to read and understand Latin.
Math and Science are very important subjects. But 20th century curriculum is failing to keep up with vast advances in both. Memorizing your times tables is unnecessary, the concept must be understood—but the recitation of math as we learned it in the past century is beyond absurd.
The solution lies in a whole new approach to learning. We must change the boxed system where kids go from grade to grade based on antiquated measurements of success. We need a system that allows children to learn and thrive at an accelerated level, while providing true measurement before advancement. Just because little Jimmy is 7 doesn’t mean he belongs in the second grade. He could succeed in the sixth grade or need to still master concepts of the first grade.
Key to this new system must be a wholly integrated approach that includes self-esteem; not the mischaracterized false sense of heightened entitlement some confuse with self-esteem, but an emphasis on every child’s real value and abilities.
As my fourth grade teacher Mr. Williamson said, every one of you is better at something than everyone else. Somebody is the fastest runner, somebody may be the best at checkers, one of you can make the funniest faces, one of you is the best in math—each of you has a talent. My job is to help you discover that talent so you can be the best at whatever it is you choose to do.
That’s real self-esteem building, and it will be essential to the new 21st-century system we must create for our kids to be successful in the future.
And the above acronyms mean: Parent Alert. Our schools are Out Of Touch. Our classes once had Pretty Awesome New stuff. But today our kids are Bored to Death.
Don’t tell your kids you know.
Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley.