Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Ideas on Education, Part II

     Continued from here

     My idea is heavily based on how the United States Marine Corps tries to teach.  No one pretends that Marines, as a whole, are the sharpest pencils in the box, and, yet the Marine Corps has to train Marines to do jobs that involve life and death of other Marines, for example, aircraft repair. 

     One course I know about was divided up.  Although the whole school was more than seven months long, it was divided into one (very occasionally two) week modules.  There is one course on basic diode/transistor logic: flops, registers and adders.  Another on boolean logic (a and b and c or d if e).  Each day of class in a module consumes the whole day, eight hours or so.

     I believe there is likely a cost to constantly changing the topic, every 55 minutes, during the school day, far above the extra books carried on small backs, time spent roaming the hallways, and locker visits.  I believe that being "left behind" a whole year costs social progress (when the only goal is have them learn what they failed to prove they learned).  The problem might be in math, or reading, or perhaps writing, but maybe not in all three.  If you only stay back one week and you only stay back in one subject (say, pre-calculus) you can stay with your peers in every other class.  Depending on the particulars (one module in math each two or three months?) the "new" peers you might find won't be particularly different in their social development levels.

     Of course, I am open to compromise.  I imagine that if each day had 7 hours of classes, there would still be 1 class of math, 1 of english, and 1 of physical education each day, so the "module" class would only be for four hours (or so).  I think there should still be a break every 55 minutes, so the kids can get up and stretch.  Who knows, maybe more often (35 minutes? 15 minutes) would be better. 

     Another advantage of the module system is summer school.  If a student re-takes a module, for a month, in the summer, the class isn't abbreviated, they get to repeat the whole course.  This also let's students who might be forced to miss class in February to "get ahead" the previous summer.

     Another advantage is the school year itself.  With its long summer vacations, the system was designed when America had principally a farm-based economy.  With week or two long modules, there is no need for an entire class to wait until the fall for school to start, with children ranging 365 days in age for 1st grade.  Children can start school in any month, and could take their "summer vacation" in any month.  This will help parents who can't get any time off in the summer (but it would tend to hurt summer camps.)

     Another advantage is really neat, and it has to do with school textbooks.  Textbooks are a very difficult industry to break into.  You have to write a book for a class that will last a year (large) and which follows the statewide standards of the big states (California and Texas, I think is how that works) in order to get wide-ranging sales.  If the classes only last a week, it will be much easier to produce "workbooks" for them.  They probably don't even need to be hardbound!  However, this is also a disadvantage, since such textbooks do not currently exist at all.

     I shall repeat myself: Week long modules make skipping ahead and falling behand allow students to follow their own tracks without much of the cost in the current system.  Spending all day in one class concentrates the student in a way that 55 minute classes prevent.  Textbooks no longer need to be lugged around the same way.  Textbook development can be more flexible.  The school year no longer has to dictate vacation choices of parents.

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