Posted by: Jake Cripe | February 9, 2011

Let’s Take Back Our Education!

Earlier last week, I was asked by fellow #u30pro-er, Ryan Stephens (@ryanstephens), to create a 90 second video blog/short post on my thoughts about education reform for an initiative of his (found here).

It was clear right off the bat that this was something Ryan was passionate about, and that zeal got me motivated to do some research and create a short post for him.

So I tried making a short video blog. Then I tried again. Then I tried a short post. Each try failed. It may have been good enough to make the site, but there was a lot that I felt I was leaving out. The only way that I can feel satisfied is if I get it all out…thus, my newest post.

It’s no secret that we are falling behind other countries in regards to education. It is all over the news and stats can be found with a quick Google search. But I do not want to focus on that. What I do want to focus on is two-fold: 1) How we can improve and 2) Things I wish I would have learned to help better prepare me for the real world (a topic that has become popular in the #u30pro community)

How We Can Improve

Where to start? That’s what I asked myself when I started. I decided to go to the source: my sister. I found her to be a great resource for a number of reasons. She is a teacher (a good place to start IMO). She is a pretty recent college graduate (so she was able to tell me what she wished she could have learned). And finally, she has the unique desire to actually change the way teaching is done in order to improve future generations (a quality that I wish more teachers had). We agreed on many opinions, the most important of which is that reform begins at a young age.

The problem starts with kids not getting a solid enough foundation. Teaching kids how to read and write English is just not being taught well enough. Disagree? Go to Youtube.com and look at just about any comment thread and you will understand. Our country is plagued with the illiterate.

Illiteracy

The best way to solve this is to ensure that young children are actually reading (as opposed to taking the short cut of skimming cliff notes). What my sister has done is require her students to mark their books. Highlight parts, write notes, ask questions in the margins. Every morning, she checks each book and gives them a few points for doing it. That way, over time, not reading and marking your book will affect your grade. Once students start reading more, they gain a better knowledge of sentence structure, vocabulary, and the English language as a whole. This is a building block that is vital to their education.

Teachers have work to do too. Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for this profession and I don’t think that good teachers get near the rewards they deserve. The problem is that almost anyone can become a teacher. My sister told me that I could take the entrance exam right now and probably pass with high marks. That is pretty discouraging, because not everyone should be a teacher. To be a teacher, you need to have a sort of talent that cannot be taught, despite teachers teaching future teachers how to teach…go ahead, read it again 🙂

Instead of taking teaching classes, our future mind-shapers should be learning everything they can about the topic they plan on teaching. My sister is currently teaching her students about the French Revolution. She has absolutely no prior knowledge to the subject, yet she is entrusted to tell these kids all they need to know. She told me that she is up until the wee hours of the morning trying to learn the subject that she is teaching. That is absurd! If you are going to teach history, you should take history classes, not teaching classes. If you are going to teach math, get a degree in math. Teachers are soldiers going to battle without weapons.

My last opinion for improvement (for the purpose of brevity) is that if a teacher is not doing a good job, that person should be fired. There are awful teachers out there that are allowed to teach because they have locked in a position. Teaching should be like any other profession: if you do not perform adequately, you are let go. It is how every other business ensures that proper people are in charge.

These aren’t overnight changes, but if they are put in place, I guarantee an improvement in our students. Teachers suited for the job and children getting a better foundation are paramount to education reform.

What I Wish I Had Learned

After looking through the comments the #u30pro-ers, it was clear that many felt that they had been gypped out of learning things pertinent to the real world. I feel the same way. I came out of college with a firm understanding of how to do a statistical analysis, but when it came to office policies, personal finance, and even the fine art of relationship building, I was feeling around in the dark. To take a quote from Ryan’s blog: “BEING GOOD AT SCHOOL DOESN’T MEAN SHIT IN THE REAL WORLD.” – Short, sweet, and delightfully eloquent.

You can argue that getting an internship in college can help prepare you, but not all of us had an internship. I chose to study abroad instead. While it provided a life changing experience and a deeper understanding of the cultural world, it did little to prepare me for the working world.

There are college classes that I took that are completely irrelevant to my life right now. Biology and Calculus have very little to do with marketing and the business world in general. If I could, I would replace them with classes like

  • Office Skills 101 – Networking, public speaking, getting promoted, how to not be a dick, etc.
  • Life Skills 101 – change a tire, do your taxes, create a generator out of a drinking straw, paper clip, and rubber band (that last one is based on the Laws of Chuck Norris).

Chuck Norris disproves science with roundhouse kicks.

While I found my biology class to be interesting, a broken down car cannot be repaired by identifying seed-bearing vascular plants. Outside of school is a different world. To prepare us for that world, we need to change the subjects that we are being taught.

This is a small fraction of the problems our education system faces. Others can be found by taking a peak through other posts on Ryan’s blog. These are problems that are not going to just disappear. In fact, if left alone, they will only worsen. So let this post, and the others you find, be a call to action! I don’t want this post to be some light reading before bed and then forgotten the next day. Ryan’s blog is a movement and I want this to be a part of it. Pass it along to the teachers, the professors, the students, the writers of textbooks, your cat. Spread the word! Let’s take back our education!

What do you wish you had learned in school? How would you improve the system? Sound off in the comments.

 

For those of you who are curious, #u30pro is a community of professionals that get together on Facebook and Twitter to discuss all sorts of real-world topics. Co-founded by David Spinks, Lauren Fernandez, and Scott J. Hale, it is a great place to get feedback, learn a thing or two, or to drop some knowledge.

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Responses

  1. Great post! I completely agree with all of your points. I’m interested to see the feedback- and if anyone has any other suggestions on improvements.

    • Thanks Nicole! Glad you liked the post!

  2. This is a *GREAT* post Jake. I love some of the ideas you bring to the table. I can’t agree more about learning the topic as opposed to learning how to teach. I think this is especially true the higher up you get in academia. In college I want professors who have ran companies, were VPs of companies, etc. — not just someone who read a handful of books.

    I couldn’t agree more about teachers being fired either, but what’s scary is that there’s already a surplus of bad teachers. I wonder what the system can do to get smarter people teaching the youth. A lot of the BEST students don’t want to be teachers because they don’t want their salaries to be capped at $60K. They want to be CMOs, doctors, lawyers, run businesses, etc. What incentives can we create to get smarter people to become teachers? Great thoughts on this subject.

    • Thanks for the feedback Ryan! Unless salaries become more competitive with other jobs, we will be relying on people’s desires to help educate. And, like you said, that isn’t always enough for a lot of people. Not everyone finds happiness from the selfless job that is teaching. While having summers off and helping shape the minds of the future are great influences, we live in a country that makes the luxury and fame the goal of life. People would much rather be NFL studs or movie stars. Either the cultural norm needs to change or we need to find some way to make teaching luxurious (golden apples?). Thanks again for the comment!

  3. Good stuff, Jake! Very true. Teaching people to teach? Craziness. You either have it, or you don’t (your Sis has it).

    • Yes she does. And though she was taught to teach, she is doing her best to learn her subjects so her kids get a better education. Thanks for the comment Josh!

  4. Enjoyed your post and your passion for education! Have you checked out http://www.facebook.com/StudentsFirstHQ ? I think it is an interesting movement to focus on the students. Many times, we forget this in between the administration, unions, etc. If we keep focused on the students and what is best for them (versus all the noise around them), maybe we can begin to see some real change.

    I am encouraged by discussion and what several leaders are doing, but know it will take awhile to see real change happen.

    • Awesome site Jon! That is exactly the type of movement that I am talking about. All it takes is a group of people with a desire for change (read: improvement). Thanks for sharing!


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