Where Will Learning Take Place?

It seems as if the schools in America are not producing the quality of output many Americans desire. There is a lot of "woe is me" out there. However, it does not reflect in any way what is really going on.

Let us take my case, an impecunious student with a lot of time on my hands. I want to learn something useful. What do I do? I get on the internet and start studying. What else do I know? I know a high school drop out who is studying Fortran to improve his mental skills. What else? I saw a community develop over the last year and three-quarters to learn plasma physics, electrodynamics, vacuum tube design principles, high voltage construction and laboratory safety, and a whole host of other disciplines and sub disciplines all with the idea of furthering the study of the Bussard Fusion Reactor. What are its strengths? Where will it need improvement? Where are the "and then you do the Magic" steps? All done to the point where the old hands can teach the newbies. At this point I'd say we have 50 to 200 people well enough trained to form design teams to build and install test reactors and power reactors (if and when they become available). And how did that all evolve? About 5 or 10 people started discussing the idea at the NASA Spaceflight blog and then all of a sudden there was a critical mass. A news group formed, a discussion group, and a number of blogs were created. All through the magic of the Internet.

So yeah. The motivated can get an education that is down right amazing. So how do we get them all motivated? I don't know. Bright kids always seem to find a way. That is very encouraging. It means our knowledge capital will be expanded. The not so bright watch American idol. There may be something you can do about it. I don't know what it is.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 06.08.08 at 11:55 AM


"The not so bright watch American idol. There may be something you can do about it. I don't know what it is"

We can stop pretending such people are educated or educable. We can also stop lowering standards to the point that such people can obtain high school and college diplomas. Then we can do something about requiring college degrees for just about any job that requires an ability to read.

This country was more productive and enjoyed more individual liberty when half of its population didn't even finish high school. Education isn't everything, and we certainly don't need to be producing more intellectuals to tyrannize the people with their parasitism and bullying.

Brett   ·  June 8, 2008 12:20 PM

So how do we get them all motivated? I don't know.

When I got less than a C in anything, it was no television until the grade improved.

As a result I didn't watch much television and am very smart today.

Ron Hardin   ·  June 8, 2008 1:11 PM

I don't remember who said the following quote, but it fits with the post. "To get a Harvard education, all a person needs is a library card." I had the same experience as Ron in school. Here are a few more ideas, first video cameras in every classroom where a student and his parents can see what was taught that day online. Second, everybody learns differently, have student teachers stay an hour or two after school for a q&a session with any students that feel they need it, maybe make it a mandatory afternoon for each student. Third, smaller class sizes, that means more teachers and more class rooms. Fourth, vouchers so that the failing teachers do not teach failure to the students. Fifth, break up the unions, one of the main reasons education is failing the students is again because of poor teachers with tenure whom can't get fired. Finally, the best way to tell if a school is failing is to look at the difference, in numbers, between administration and teachers.

John   ·  June 8, 2008 1:43 PM

I don't know about girls, but Glenn Reynolds recently came up with a brilliant idea on how to get boys motivated:

Have NASA announce a program to send robots to Mars and crash them into each other.

tim maguire   ·  June 9, 2008 11:05 AM

I am 55, and have been hearing since I was in highschool myself how American students are terrible compared to other nations and how standards have deteriorated. Somehow they still go out and run the world every year. Perhaps that is more a result of the learning that takes place because of the accountability of a free-market system.

Stephen Johnson suggests that American students' strategy of learning for the quiz and letting it slide after is actually quite functional in an increasingly information-dense, networked world. American HS students can only find countries on a map within 24 hours of the test, but when they have to learn it for keeps because they are doing business there, they are remarkably good at retaining the information.

Hybrid schools will increasingly be the model - I think it's a good thing.

Assistant Village Idiot   ·  June 9, 2008 11:50 AM

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