Someone questioned why I posted an article from The Onion in the Watertown Residents for Strong Schools Facebook group. Thought it might be useful to cross post it here.
I was hoping that posting the satirical article from The Onion about our education crisis might prompt further discussion. Plus it was just damn funny and I didn’t see the harm in bringing a little levity to the seriousness of the discussion.
When I read The Onion article it reminded me of a common topic on this group about how much money the school department should receive and also of a segment I saw recently on the TODAY Show about Unschooling.
Dialog in this Facebook Group reinforces the message the media covers at the national level http://www.educationnation.com/ http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/education/ that our current public education system is no longer producing the results we expect. Many of our conversations in this group have focused around increasing the funding our school department receives from the town and by doing so we will better support our students and teachers.
This morning I Googled, “does increasing spending on education help?” and you land on this article which does a pretty great job of dealing with the question: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2011/06/06/School-Budgets-The-Worst-Education-Money-Can-Buy.aspx#page1 Basically – just spending more money won’t help as much as we think.
Maybe we should ask the tough question:
What if adding more money to our school budget doesn’t help our children as much as we hope?
When I met with former Superintendent Ann Koufman last spring she handed me a book called Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: http://www.amazon.com/Rethinking-Education-Technology-Education-Connections-Education-Connections/dp/0807750026 which spends the first few chapters describing how our current educational system came to be. Reading how our industrial revolution shaped the education system was enlightening – it also makes it clear that the 150 year old structure of our education system is ripe for radical transformation.
Self directed learning is so easy now – with just a few mouse clicks you can learn more about just about any topic on the Internet, you can attend FREE in-person computer programming classes: http://meetup.bostonpython.com/events/17433132/?eventId=17433132&action=detail or attend university courses: https://www.ai-class.com/. The Khan Academy http://www.khanacademy.org/ is educating millions. TED talks inspire us to learn more about our world and spark conversations and jumping off points for learning: http://www.ted.com/. Go to a Maker Faire with your kids: http://makerfaire.com/ or better yet start one.
When you examine our town budget and after you add in the town appropriation, health care, pension and state and federal grants you see that our school department budget is north of $50,000,000 per year. With our 2,800 students that comes in near $18,000 per student. What if all of that money, and I mean all of it went to teachers/facilitators that interact with our kids? Imagine a world in which each educator could earn $108,000 per year to work with only 6 kids?
Could we become more involved in educating both ourselves and our children if we shook up the institution? Could we better engage with our local scientists, artists, engineers, bakers, welders and electricians if we didn’t carry the baggage of a 150 year old institution?
I believe that our government should fund the education of it’s citizens, it benefits all of us to have a more engaged and informed society. I just want to know – can we do it better and more efficiently.