© 5.13.05 By D. Eric Williams
It seems to me that it is only a matter of time before major changes take place in the world of education. Critical mass may be just around the corner and I think those who have positioned themselves properly will be richly rewarded.
The institutional approach to education is thousands of years old and thousands of years out of date. Originally it made sense to have students sit and listen to a lecturer; the ancients didn’t have access to books and there was no other way to transfer information to the pupils. The lecturer/listener model continued to be useful into the middle ages and Christendom adopted the approach for the same reason that the pagan world had.
However, the need for an “expert” lecturer began to diminish with the advent of the printing press. Information that was once the sole province of the learned class became accessible to the common man as well. The reality is that with the introduction of cheap and easily available books, the need for an institutionalized system of education ceased. What was true a few hundred years ago remains true today. And yet America (indeed the entire civilized world), continues to educate her young in the most inefficient method possible.
Part of the problem is that there is a deeply entrenched educational elite in our country that will do anything to maintain its monopoly. Their concern is not in educating children but in indoctrinating them in a particular world view. The institutional system is ideal for mass programming and so any attempt to dismantle it is immediately attacked by the teacher’s unions and other left wing education lobby groups. Moreover, the children who pass through the system grow up to be adults who cannot conceive of any other approach to education and so demands for change never reach beyond calls for “better results” or higher standards” and so on. No one seems capable of recognizing that the entire educational method is wrong.
As much as is possible, education should be self managed. That’s just a twenty-first century way to describe what Abe Lincoln and Ben Franklin did; they educated themselves, by and large. I’m not suggesting that a child be turned loose without any oversight. I am saying that it breeds irresponsibility – and dull wittedness - to have children herded from room to room at the ring of a bell, constantly cajoled and threatened in order to motivate them to perform. Their whole lives take on an abnormal rhythm that affects the emotional tempo of their entire calendar year. And don’t kid yourself; even the “good student” completes his work because of the threat of a low grade (obviously low scores are a much greater threat to the good student that the average student). No one in the institutionalized system learns for the love of learning. They go through the motions because they don’t have any other choice. And woe to the child who falls behind.
A child who self manages his education discovers how to make learning a normal part of his life. Yes he receives direction and correction, but he learns in a fashion that is in harmony with the rest of his, life rather than a contrivance.1
Education should be provided on an “as needed” basis in the way that instruction is offered to working adults. Most working adults don’t drop everything and enroll in day school when they want to continue their education. Instead they fit their education in during evening or weekend hours utilizing a variety of resources. There is no reason that children shouldn’t do the same thing. A child who holds down a job and pursues his educational objectives at the same time will have a much firmer grasp on the real world than his institutionalized peers. I’m not suggesting that a six year old should be encouraged to seek full time work. Nevertheless, the Williams children usually start working odd jobs by age eight or nine and have regular part-time employment by the time they are in their early teens. They school and work twelve months a year and the two are mixed together so that they are taught to understand that gainful employment and learning are life long endeavors.2
These days a person can educate himself cheaply and easily in a number of ways. I’m partial to the old fashioned approach taken by many of the prominent men in our nation’s history; reading books. In fact, I parlayed my reading into a Bachelor of Arts degree from a state university about ten or twelve years ago. Basically I read a lot and then tested my way to a degree from the University of the State of New York, Regent’s College (now called Excelsior College).3 The same approach can be taken for any level of study. Although I don’t think it is necessary to ask the state (or anyone else), to “validate” your learning, someone who takes the reading approach to education will find it relatively easy to pass state their high-school equivalency exam or to test their way to an accredited college degree.
For those who are interested in the cutting edge of education, there are CDs, tapes, DVDs, videos and the internet. You don’t need to look very far to realize that there is a universe of resources available. This is especially helpful for specialized study in the hard sciences, higher math or foreign languages. Frankly it doesn’t matter if you use books, electronic media or a combination. All you need to educate yourself these days is a logical study outline and the discipline to pull the material together.
Which brings me back to my original point; I think that it is only a matter of time before the institutional system collapses. The escalating cost of the system along with widespread failure will finally provoke a grassroots rebellion. Many parents will simply shuffle their children into a different - “free market” - warehouse and hope for the best. I doubt they’ll be disappointed. If you strip away the (leftist, godless, green), ideologies, even the institutional system will produce acceptable results. However, as the bugs are worked out of self managed education by thousands and millions of learners in the years to come, it will become apparent that there is really no better approach to education.4 Forward looking educational entrepreneurs should even now be producing material to meet future demands. In so doing they will be fueling the growing trend toward self managed education and utilizing it to fine tune their products. For instance, I foresee a demand for easily accessible instructional material in the hard sciences and higher mathematics. Now would be a good time for sharp PhDs working in the real world to start producing DVDs and other material.5 Believe me, there is already a market for solid stuff on these subjects.
Christians should be both propelling the change and preparing for it. We need to do everything in our power to hasten the collapse of the public education system. The first step is to pull your children out of the system and either home school or send them to a Christian day school. Secondly we need to be ones who are producing the material that will give momentum to the self managed education tidal wave that is sure to come.6 In so doing we will be helping to shape the worldview of not only our own children but the children of the unsaved. So what are we waiting for?