In my sixth grade my teacher let 8 of us do what we wanted to do Math and Reading wise. Essentially she gave up on teaching us when we challenged her on her ability to teach us beyond the basics. I remember the exchange something like, “okay smarties, if you think you can do a better job teaching yourselves go to that table there.” Most of the class just sat there and quivered. But me and my fellow “smarties” got up and tabled. Then she said, “fine, you teach yourselves, you grade yourselves and you explain it back to me once a week!”
We embarked of onto alternate number systems, basic trig and other things that seemed to be real world examples of math. Reading was mostly a discussion of books that we were reading anyway. The boys were into science fiction and the girls liked something that girls liked. We separated there.
It was decided that we should write papers on subjects that we liked instead of just doing problems. Tom Coleman, the instigator of the separation, thought this up when he got sick of the classroom. This moved the group into the library where we took over a mostly unused AV storage room.
By December break I had finished a draft on alternate number systems and had moved onto electronics. Dave’s paper on frog breeding was cool. And Tom’s paper on finding how tall things were was useful indeed. We were all learning at a very fast pace, teaching each other what we learned along the way.
After xMax the teacher that we hated was forgotten largely. We were doing our thing and we were happy. Until the morning when the new teacher showed up. We were told that Ms B had a nervous breakdown and wouldn’t be back. There were notes about our learning project but not enough to let us continue with the freedoms we had. Ms New wanted to supervise more and eventually killed it all because she didn’t think it was working. Meaning she didn’t understand what we were doing…
Three years later my father and I started a computer programming school (as part of our computer retail store) were kids taught kids BASIC. 900 kids went through that program in 5 years. I only kept track of one of them who has a Phd on something to do with mice.
The problem with education as it is today is that it makes people that are slaves to the system that trained them. Modern education is based largely on system invented to train workers during the industrial revolution. This system pits everyone against everyone in a way that makes them all the same. Bright minds get dulled early on allowing them to conform to a system that doesn’t allow for thinking outside a box. Run this machine do it well and you get a paycheck. A good example of this is in modern times is MSCE training. This rating allows corporate HR people to evaluate and hire people for their IT department. Don’t have one? Self taught? Know lots? Don’t bother applying. Even if you know you know more than anyone.
A large part of education has nothing to do with actual teaching but of measuring a group and comparing them to another group. Measuring doesn’t care about the star or the slow learner, just the average mean plus or minus 10%. These numbers give the people making decisions something to make a gut reaction. Gasp! The scores are down! Do something. Or Hurray! Our kids are smart! We can stop throwing money at schools now!
The system has many, many people making decisions about education that no nothing about education. The parents, school board, mayor, board of officials, governor, senators, representatives, president. The all think they know something because they have been exposed to the system. But exposure doesn’t make an expert.
I’ve been in the classroom, pool and ocean teaching. And one thing I know is that if the person has an interest in the subject they will learn. But if they don’t, they won’t. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a student ask, “how is [subject] relevant to my life?” or “when will I use this skill?” Sadly there almost is never a good logical answer. At least when I was teaching everything was relevant and I would always give a good logical answer.