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X-Prize Founder Wants Ideas For Fixing Education 479

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-be-solved-by-a-few-friends-in-a-garage dept.
An anonymous reader writes "X-Prize Founder Peter Diamandis, speaking at SXSW, says he wants to set up a $10 million prize for fixing education — but he needs help figuring out how to target the problem. From the article: 'He said he has considered multiple directions that an Education X Prize could take, such as coming up with better ways to crowd-source education, or rewarding the creation of "powerful, addictive game" that promotes education. But he isn’t sure which way to go. There’s no shortage of high-tech visionaries and tycoons these days, running around with ideas about how to fix education. Many of them are finding, though, that technology alone isn’t enough. Exciting ideas founder quickly if they don’t sustain motivation in students who perform at widely different levels. Other challenges include the need to engage effectively with school districts, teachers and parents.'"
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X-Prize Founder Wants Ideas For Fixing Education

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  • Unions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @07:25PM (#39320809)

    Personally, I think parents and teachers unions are the biggest parts of the problems, or are certainly high on the list.

    • Re:Unions (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 11, 2012 @07:35PM (#39320897)

      That's definitely a large part of the problem. I work in public education and on a daily basis see parents who have no interest in their children's education.
      Problem is, these parents generally didn't care while they were in school so the "school is boring, there's no need to learn" nonsense is generational, largely caused by the teacher problem.

      You have teachers who get tenure, have a job protected by the union and no longer care to even try to do it well.
      Ditch the teacher unions and more proactively evaluate teachers based on technology skills, classroom leadership and student involvement in the learning process.
      The good teachers aren't always the ones whose students have the best grades( standardized testing I'm pointing at you), they're the ones where the students WANT to be involved in the class process. You teach someone to have a thirst for knowledge you have a productive member of society, you teach them to regurgitate textbooks and they can't think on their own without direct instruction.

      • Re:Unions (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Nerdfest (867930) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @07:38PM (#39320923)

        I think a voucher system would go a long way. Teachers unions hate it though.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          There have been (tentative) steps made into "AI"-based teacher bots for students. If there were a decent FOSS AI chat-bot base to work from, the system could be built to work within a certain set of boundaries and teach students from there (I'm more than half convinced Apple's TSPS chat is mostly bots that hand off to a person if they can't answer the question, the same can be applied here).

          If you remove the need for a teacher to do a lot of the basics, either the teachers will start to teach properly, or
          • Re:Unions (Score:5, Interesting)

            by rwa2 (4391) * on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:03PM (#39322427) Homepage Journal

            Meh, can't really see much that AI-teacherbots could do that TV-instruction already failed to do in the 70s. Other than just divert resources away from more traditional teaching resources.

            Teaching isn't a respected profession in the US (read about how they're treated in Finland). The few teachers that do stick it out pretty much do so on principle until their morale is beat down by administration and lack of resources. They face strict quotas on pencils and copier paper, and annual fads where everyone and their monkeys drop by to tell them exactly how to do their jobs down to where they write the objective on the board and the minimum number of flyers to have on their bulletin boards. The good teachers I've met are very internally motivated, and usually have very supportive spouses with "real" jobs (incidentally, they also tend to be smokin' hot). The rest eventually burn out and sit back and decide to just give as good as they get, which isn't terribly much. Trying something different is typically punished or at the very least not rewarded.

            Every once in a while (actually, all the time, it seems) someone comes around and wants to throw a magic bullet at the problem... "oh, if only every child had textbooks, let's throw all this money at textbook publishers!", "oh, if only every child had TV instruction, let's put VCRs in every classroom!", "oh, let's put computers in every classroom, but not really provide a way to use them productively", "oh, if only no child was left behind, let's make them take a month's worth of standardized testing and threaten to fire everyone if their scores don't show Acceptable Yearly Progress!", "oh, let's buy everyone iPads!" (OK, my teacher wife actually sort of liked the last one, because they actually provided decent training and she can use it as a ridiculously expensive workaround for not having a decent pen & paper quota)

            But really, the things that have the greatest impact on the students are the things that are closest to the students: their parents, their teachers, their classmates. Invest in improving those first.

            Sure technology could help improve productivity, if they have a decent IT department -- just like any other profession. Technology might enhance, but is not going to effectively replace teaching... it happens to be a very human, social interaction. Sheesh, even the Diamond Age featured a human prostitute/teacher ractive for interaction.

            Disclaimer: I support public education; I married a teacher

            • I actually agree with you on most of those points, so I just wanted to point out the most obvious reason TV vs teacherbot are comparable but still significantly different: The student interacts with the teacherbot, and can have things re-explained to them, questions asked and answered, etc. assuming a good enough teacherbot.

              There is actually a well written paper on using this sort of tech to teach chemistry, worth a look in.
            • Re:Unions (Score:4, Insightful)

              by datavirtue (1104259) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:30AM (#39322979)

              Trying something different is typically punished or at the very least not rewarded.

              You hit the nail on the head. There is a lot of teacher bashing but no one really realizes that they do not have the resources or the power to do what needs done. I'm guessing a lot of parents treat the teachers like a commodity they paid for. Regardless of who has the problem (cough...your kid sucks because of your parenting) they blame the teacher because they are not satisfied customers. As for the administration, they only care about keeping people off their back. New ideas and innovation actually turn them off.

            • by cloricus (691063)
              I know school supplies were very expensive when I was young but I'd have thought that $499 american dollars probably covered all of my pens and paper for at least half of my schooling, if not all of it. Where is the rational to splash out on iPads but then continue to penny pinch on basic supplies?
      • Teachers need an incentivized bonus program. Something based on school performance and individual performance. This is a typical bonus program. This would encourage teamwork within the faculty but would allow healthy competition as well.

        Junior teachers (less than 5 years experience) would get 5/7/10 percent bonus based on meets/exceeds/outstanding performance. Senior teaching staff would get 7/10/15 percent. Leadership would get 10/15/20 percent. The percent is of the total available based on school overal

        • by eulernet (1132389)

          Teachers need an incentivized bonus program

          You are completely wrong.
          If you put some bonus and encourage competition, you'll create even more people who will reject education.

          Instead, you should encourage people to enjoy learning.

          As long as you use grades as the measure to learning, you are encouraging cheating.
          Cheating will be done by students, and with a bonus system, teachers will cheat as well (to get their bonus).

          Grades only show the ability of the teacher to teach.
          Grades should measure motivation of the students, not their results.
          If you have p

      • Simple Solutions (Score:5, Insightful)

        by catchblue22 (1004569) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:23AM (#39323251) Homepage

        The first step in solving the "education problem" is to realize that there are no simple answers to solving the "education problem". If anybody claims they have a simple solution, they are probably trying to sell something. The problems of education go back many centuries. Plutarch, 2000 years ago said that "a mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled". Aristotle said that "the purpose of education is to teach us to love beauty". Our addiction to simple ideological solutions to our problems is I believe at the heart of much of our modern malaise.

        • by tbannist (230135)

          Indeed, American culture needs a major retooling before education can be generally successful in the United States. Perhaps part of the reason Asian countries do so much better academically is because they prize smart people? It seems Americans prize rich people, and smart people are regarded as either impediments or tools to be used by the "job creators". If your culture doesn't respect and reward intelligence and education how can you expect children raised in that culture to aspire to intelligence or

    • I disagree. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday March 11, 2012 @07:36PM (#39320903)

      You're going to have to specify what you mean by "unions" being the problem.

      Parents can cause problems by not providing a stable home environment and emphasis on learning. Or parents can help by providing those. So "parents" being a "problem" ... again, you have to specify what you mean.

      But first off, someone needs to define the "problem".
      What, exactly, needs to be improved?
      Are there other countries that are doing better?
      If so, what are their approaches?

      • Re:I disagree. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by nbauman (624611) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @07:41PM (#39320941) Homepage Journal

        Since the teachers in most of the countries whose students are doing better than the U.S. are heavily unionized, such as Finland, Germany and Canada, the problem must be something other than unions.

        In fact, within the U.S., students in union states are doing better than students in non-union states.

        • Re:I disagree. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:00PM (#39321121) Journal

          Since the teachers in most of the countries whose students are doing better than the U.S. are heavily unionized, such as Finland, Germany and Canada, the problem must be something other than unions.

          I've never been to Finland, but unions in other countries are not the same as unions in the US. For example, in California, a teacher gets tenure after two years. How do you fire a bad teacher after that?

          The problem is not having unions, it's the type of unions we have in the US.

          • ...

            ..., in California, a teacher gets tenure after two years. How do you fire a bad teacher after that? ....

            Your question does not follow from your premise. After a teacher has tenure, the termination process is fairly simple, as with almost any employee working under a contract. The employer (school district in this case) simply has to document the ways in which the employee is failing to live up to the contract, and they terminate him. Or her. Tenure is not, and has never been, a guarantee of lifetime employment. Tenure is simply a promise of due process. Nothing more.

            • Re:I disagree. (Score:5, Insightful)

              by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:38PM (#39321393) Journal

              After a teacher has tenure, the termination process is fairly simple, as with almost any employee working under a contract.

              No, it is not fairly simple. It is a long process, and carries with it the high probability of a lawsuit.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Glothar (53068)

            For example, in California, a teacher gets tenure after two years. How do you fire a bad teacher after that?

            The same way you fire anyone else: By firing them. The "tenure" everyone talks about isn't "tenure". The only difference is that after two years, the school has to document a reason for the firing. Before that, they can fire the teacher at any time, for no reason at all.

            • Re:I disagree. (Score:5, Insightful)

              by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:31PM (#39322597) Journal

              The same way you fire anyone else: By firing them. The "tenure" everyone talks about isn't "tenure". The only difference is that after two years, the school has to document a reason for the firing. Before that, they can fire the teacher at any time, for no reason at all.

              No, it's not the same way as anyone else. It is really hard to fire a teacher in California. Either you're oblivious to that fact, or you are willfully deceptive. In the first case, it's very hard to get rid of a teacher who can't teach. As long as they don't mess up, they will stay in their position.

              Even if they do mess up, say, have a principle has an affair with a teacher and is also found mismanaging the accounting and lying to the schoolboard and teachers, you STILL can't fire him easily. It will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and can take a year or more. I know this because it happened near where I live.

              Here's another good explanation. [latimes.com] A good quote from the article, "You're in the position of having to look at 125 kids and just say, 'I'm sorry,' because the process of removal is really difficult. . . . You're looking at these kids and knowing they are going to high school and they're not ready. It is absolutely devastating."

              How is that helping kids? It's not. School needs to be about helping kids, even if some teachers get fired without deserving it. That's not the end of the world.

          • Re:I disagree. (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:49PM (#39321523)

            The biggest difference is the process by which you become a teacher in these countries. Entry into teacher preparation is very competitive, e.g. in Korea you must be in the top 10% of your graduating class. And a fair number of those admitted don't make it to graduation.. So the situation is much more like med school. And how do you get the top 10% to become teachers? You keep the tuition cost minimal. You pay them commensurate to this level of skill. Compared to the US where most Ed programs are self selecting and the gateway is paying your tuition and perhaps passing some form of standardized test.

            Yes there are bad teachers, just as there are bad police, fireman, secretaries, (your job here), etc. It very popular today to attack teachers and characterized them as lazy leaches on the public teat. For the vast majority of teacher this is a very unfair characterization. They put in long hours, far beyond the typical 7.5 hours or so of the school day. The majority of them take money out their own pockets to have class supplies. And maintaining the license requires continuing education, almost always at their own cost. And the pay is not really that great, the promised retirement benefits help to offset the low pay. Personally I find that money spend on teachers is far less abhorrent than the rather generous salaries paid to various politicians.

              And there has only been one research project that looked at student performance and the strength of teacher unions. And in that research there was a positive between strong unions and higher SAT scores. Of the 5 states that don't have any teacher unions, only Virginia score in the middle in terms of SAT, graduation rates and NEAP score. The other 4 non-union states are clustered at the bottom.

            • by orlanz (882574)

              They put in long hours, far beyond the typical 7.5 hours or so of the school day. The majority of them take money out their own pockets to have class supplies. And maintaining the license requires continuing education, almost always at their own cost.

              You just described all the jobs between factory floor worker to senior management. Which is the majority of the jobs in the US. Do teachers work over summer? Outside of 1 hour of lunch most people work 8-9 hours a day; year around. They probably don't spend as much of their personal money on work related stuff.

              I have known teachers who worked for more than 8 years making over 100k in salaries. Would summer be PTO or vacation time? Either way you slice it, it is either a higher salary or benefit; both

          • Re:I disagree. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by diaz (816483) <`ten.lezaey' `ta' `todhsals'> on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:20AM (#39322921)
            Part of the problem is the administrators. Teachers don't simply get tenure handed to them after a couple of years. The have to be reviewed by administrators. Typically, administrators have a bare minimum of classroom experience and can't tell the difference between a good teacher and a bad one. Yet they are the ones handing out the tenure. Only years later after many parent complaints do they discover that they have a bad teacher. Get better administrators and you'll have fewer bad teachers with tenure. Parents are a part of the problem. You have parents that don't place an emphasis on education. Parents that place an emphasis on education, but do not have the time, education or language to help their kids with their homework. Parents that think little Susie is getting bad grades because the teachers are out to get her because of her dress/race/etc. Parents that think that THEIR child would NEVER misbehave, so the teacher is at fault. Parent's that don't know how to get their kids to study more, but excuse their 16 year old from school to get their driver's license.
      • Re:I disagree. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @07:51PM (#39321041) Journal

        You're going to have to specify what you mean by "unions" being the problem.

        If your solution to the USA's education problem doesn't involve weeding out the bad teachers, then your plan is fucked.
        And unions make it exceedingly difficult to get rid of bad teachers.

        • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:04PM (#39321153)

          So X (what is wrong with education here) has not been defined ...
          Which means that a plan to fix X is sort of impossible at this point ...

          But you've already determined that there needs to be a way of "weeding out the bad teachers" in the plan.

          Sounds to me that your REAL goal is "weeding out" some teachers. And then basing a "plan" around that.

          How about we stick to finding X first?
          What, specifically, is WRONG with education today?
          Is any other country doing it better? How?

        • Unions can only accomplish what the political and judicial system allows them to accomplish. You're confusing a symptom with the disease, which is a government fucked up by money and a court system fucked up by lawyers.

      • You're going to have to specify what you mean by "unions" being the problem.

        Easy. You need a way to get rid of bad teachers. This should be obvious.

        Unions in many states have made that extremely difficult. Unions are there for the teachers, not for the kids.

      • Re:I disagree. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @10:37PM (#39322269)

        Okay, here's a real world example. The New York City public school system has roughly 2000 teachers in what's known as "the rubber room." They have been removed from the classroom for a variety of reasons from poor performance to criminal activity. The union contract requires that they A) keep their job, B) get their full salary and benefits. Mayor Bloomberg wants to fire them but legally can't. Many types of unions have rubber rooms particularly the UAW. And people wonder why GM crashed and burned, was propped up by the taxpayers without them getting a say in the matter, turned over to the union who gets a tax credit for the losses before the bailout and they still can't get profitable.

        In New Jersey, the following procedure must be followed in order to fire a teacher. Time involved: 2 to 5 years.
        http://www.publicschoolspending.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/New-Jersey-Tenure-chart.pdf [publicschoolspending.com]

        But to be more specific, the union isn't the only problem. Collective bargaining is a bigger problem. Imagine if you wanted to buy eggs but by law you weren't allowed open the carton to make sure none of them were cracked or spoiled. Not only that but you were required to buy a gross of eggs every week but you're a single person. And then to add insult to injury, you were required to save the shells and dispose of them in a government approved landfill for which you had to pay a maintenance fee until the shells completely decompose.

    • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @07:43PM (#39320963) Journal
      The biggest problem I see is the lack of streaming in education. Trying to give everyone the same education is simply stupid. There is no way that you can teach at a level such that the slowest students are keeping up while the top students are stretched - someone, somewhere has to suffer. However the moment you try to stream students there are cries of discrimination and unfairness. Frankly I do not think that education will be fixed until there are governments willing to tackle this politically sensitive issue.

      The curious thing is that, somehow, this does not apply to sports. Nobody would think it sensible that footballers, athletes etc. are held back and denied more advanced training because it is discriminatory against those who have less physical ability...but the moment it comes to academics it is a completely different story. I think the key difference is that society can easily see the benefit of a good sports person - they entertain. However the benefit of a good academic - jobs created, industries founded, science discovered etc. - is less clear and being smart is perceived as benefiting the individual only.

      So perhaps that X prize should go to the best idea for turning academic subjects into a spectator sport. The moment we have people interested in watching teams of physicists competing there will be no problem in getting a more rigorous education for those who need it.
      • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday March 11, 2012 @07:55PM (#39321069)

        If you're on the high school football team you practice football after school with a coach dedicated to improving your skills.

        Where's the after school coach for math? If you have a tutor it is usually to bring you up to the level of the other students. Not to help you become better than the math students in other schools.

        Yet someone skilled in moving a ball down a field gets paid a LOT more than someone skilled in math.

    • Personally, I think parents and teachers unions are the biggest parts of the problems, or are certainly high on the list.

      If the problem were "unions" you would expect that states without collective bargaining requirements would outperform states with those requirements.They don't. [shankerblog.org]

    • Meh, I think it's far more damaging to (A) think a school is a business or (B) pay teachers less than any other degree-requiring profession.

      The day that a stellar teacher's pay exceeds other professions, you get to talk about how teachers have become too powerful. Until then, engineers and lawyers and doctors and politicians get zero sympathy from me when they rant about invented horrors involving teachers unionizing.

      Personally, I also know that opinions are like assholes. Everybody's got one, taint nothi

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 11, 2012 @07:28PM (#39320841)

    Easy. Fuck the union. Make it a system where you can get fired if you don't do well. Base pay on performance, not seniority.

    What's that you say? Performance evals might not be fair? Welcome to every other business in America. Deal with it. If the manager doesn't give you good evals, find another company (district). If you move from district to district and keep getting crappy evals, guess what? The problem is YOU.

    Likewise, if parents hate your school so much that they are willing to drive 2 hours into another district, guess what? Your school should go "bankrupt", just like companies do. Not your fault you say? Tough place to run a school? Good. Find another district.

    So the district has no school, or the school always sucks? Guess what. It's not a problem with the administrators OR the teachers. It's your city. It sucks. There could be any number of reasons your fine city has turned into Crackville. Fix that, and the schools will fix themselves.

    These are the problems with schools. Everybody knows what has to be done to fix them. The hard part is forcing them to do it.

    • by Toam (1134401) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @07:43PM (#39320967)

      So if you're in an area where children aren't "performing" due largely to the attitude of their parents, and your performance evaluation is bad, all the teachers should leave and go somewhere else?

      What you're saying is that people who live in an area where most parents don't care about their childrens education (even if they themselves DO care about their childrens education) don't deserve to have a school.

      Also, it means that a teacher who lives (works) in an area where parents are move involved in their childrens education will have to work "less hard" for a greater pay cheque than a teacher in a "worse" area would.

      Not everything should be run like a business.

      • by adamchou (993073) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:47PM (#39321495)
        one of my friends runs the premier english school [treehouse.com.tw] in taipei and what his philosophy in schooling isn't just educating the students, its educating the parents. he literally has classes that the parents are forced to go to where he teaches them how to parent their children because the majority of parents don't know how to do it right. and his method has been successful. he consistently produces children that score highest in the country and make it into the ivy league schools back here in the states.
    • That's your answer? Ban collective bargaining rights and privatise education? The reasons why that is totally wrong are too numerous to mention. I realise that you are probably from the US where teachers not being fireable is a major problem, and where many schools perform poorly without any consequences. But even if you solved both of those problems, that only gets you on par with the standard school system functioning efficiently, like say in Germany. This is a system that was created over a century ago t
    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      Easy. Fuck the union. Make it a system where you can get fired if you don't do well. Base pay on performance, not seniority.

      Ok, so how do you want this to be measured? It's easy to scream "performance", but much harder to actually quantify. By student performance on tests? That what we have now, and we have teachers just teaching tests. And what if a teacher's class has a large number of students that are bad test takers? Are they SOL? Observations? Unless you are constantly observing the class, those would be worthless. Student evaluations? If the teacher actually disciplines their students, the students will give them

      • by Surt (22457)

        If teachers can teach kids to pass a sufficiently rigorous test, I think we could all be pretty satisfied. The problem is the test, not that performance is linked to testing.

        Make the test much, much longer. It should be 4 or 5 days long at the end of each year. Make the tests much more broad as well. Then let the teachers teach to it.

  • Why innovate (Score:5, Interesting)

    by obi1one (524241) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @07:31PM (#39320853)
    Why are we trying to innovate to fix education? A quick search indicates we are around 15th in reading and science, worse in math. Doesn't that mean there are 15 countries doing it better which we could try to emulate them rather than spending money trying to create something cool and new?
    • The reason the US scores poorly is the low end of the spectrum does very poorly. The top 10% of US students are as good or better than the top 10% from anywhere in the world.

    • If you're looking at a ranking like this one [guardian.co.uk], then the answer is.. the sample size and actual differences in performance might not be large enough to make any substantive conclusions about the nations ahead of us.

      For one thing, fewer than half of the "better than US" nations on that list have populations larger than 10 million (iceland has less than half the population of Rhode Island, even...). Next, the scores of the top 20 or so nations are within about 10%, so I'm not sure that being third vs thirtee

    • As someone living in one of those countries, I want innovation. If your country has no interest in participating that's fine, but don't presume to speak for everyone.
    • fixing education requires fixing what you want to happen after education... no fix for education will work if the job market after education doesn't match the educational goals. and no changes to the job market will work without the corresponding changing in country's economic engine(s).

      conversely, fix the economic engines, create the jobs needed, education fixes follow BUT you cannot allow people to coast along sucking off the system not following this track. There needs to also be a strong disincentive

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Doesn't that mean there are 15 countries doing it better which we could try to emulate them rather than spending money trying to create something cool and new?

      There are almost always significant social and cultural differences that prevent foreign models of education from being adopted in the USA.
      Fixing education isn't just about schools, in the USA, it's also about the underlying fabric of society.

  • by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @07:34PM (#39320883) Homepage

    From the article: 'He said he has considered multiple directions that an Education X Prize could take, such as coming up with better ways to crowd-source education, or rewarding the creation of "powerful, addictive game" that promotes education.

    This isn't a game or something that is fixed by simply throwing money at. It is a social problem first and foremost. The culture of this country does not appreciate education, and the idea of studying as hard as South Koreans or Japanese is seen as if it were child abuse or something like that.

    But he isn’t sure which way to go.

    Look at Japan, South Korean, Germany, Finland. Copy, adapt, rinse and repeat. Moreover, for changes specific to our country, I would suggest the following:

    1. Get rid of summer school (or provide vouchers for low-income people to put their kids in summer camps.)

    2. From that above, increase the number of school hours during the year, like in Japan or Germany, or like in almost any other country, developed and otherwise.

    3. Teach kids to stand up when a teacher enters and leaves a room, and teach them, no, put them to clean their own class rooms as part of their daily school day.

    4. Give teachers better pay and better training.

    5. Don't pass kids to the next grade unless they have actually demonstrated they are capable off. Enough of giving HS degrees to kids who LITERALLY cannot read or add fractions.

    6. De-emphasize 4-year college degrees. Instead, emphasize vocational training at the HS and community college level. That is, implement something akin to that the Germans and Japanese have.

    7. Increase the number of commercials that laud education. Increase the number of educational programs (.ie. musicals and documentaries) in TV. Compare the number of educational programs and commercials in Japanese TV to ours, and you'll see the difference.

    Do that and in a generation you'll see a change, all without throwing the coffers out of the window and without looking for the next e-silver bullet.

    You can throw billions at the problem, but if we don't change our culture and the basic nature of our curricula, it ain't gonna count for shit.

    • You don't need to adopt the asian cram school model. The Finns get better results with far less child abuse. Heck US suburban schools do as well as any schools in the world.

      It's all about the total environment.

      • by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:43PM (#39321459) Homepage

        You don't need to adopt the asian cram school model. The Finns get better results with far less child abuse.

        What child abuse? What is it with this stereotype that the Japanese inflict this barbaric treatment on their students? I've been in Japan, and I haven't seen none of it. You got crazy parents that keep their kids up till the wee hours doing homework, but you have that everywhere. The key difference between Japan and the US is that:

        1. Japanese kids go to school more days during the year. Their school day is similar in lengths to ours.

        2. Kids aren't allowed to pass grades just so that they don't feel bad. If a kid is having learning problems, special care is taken for them. It's not like us that allow kids to finish HS without knowing how to read or write (literally.)

        3. Whether you are working class or upper class, your kid is guaranteed to get decent public education.

        4. Teachers are respected.

        5. Kids clean their class room (oh no, the horror, the abuse!!!!!)

        6. Kids are expected to make up their minds whether they go to college or vocational training (and tailor their HS education accordingly.) No much different from the German model. Man, on my last trip seeing my in-laws a month ago, one of the main blockbuster movies in Japan is one about the construction and launch of the Hayabusa satellite. THAT IS ONE OF THEIR BLOCKBUSTERS!. That tells you everything about the difference between their view of education and ours.

        Heck US suburban schools do as well as any schools in the world.

        If that gives you comfort, and if that gives comfort to people at large, we are fucked. It doesn't mean anything if you have large swats of working class/ethnic inner cities with schools that are flat lining. Having a few suburban schools that excel means shit. Having schools that, regardless of income class or location, provide decent education on a consistent basis (as the Japanese and Finns do), that's what matters.

        It's all about the total environment.

        Which Japanese (and Finns) provide... and which we do not. I still want to hear about this (hopefully first hand) account about this so-called child abuse in the Asian cram school model.

        To be honest, I don't care if our country adopts (or adapts from) a Japanese or Finn model. Whatever works. But I have a problem with people talking shit about a country, perpetuating stereotypes. Saying that the Japanese use or inflict child abuse to get their kids educated It is no different from the extremist Mullah in a Madrassa saying that all Western women are prostitutes, or saying that all Black people steal or all White people are racist or all Latinas get pregnant by the age of 15. It is a stereotype. It is false. It is dumb. It is bullshit. It has no room in a serious discussion about education.

        • by jejones (115979) on Monday March 12, 2012 @06:39AM (#39324437) Journal

          I don't know about child abuse, but... from Mamoru Iga, "Suicide of Japanese Youth" (Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, v.11, Issue 1, pp.17-30): "The uniquely intense stress due to the Examination Hell (shiken jigoku) not only generates a basic drive for Japan's economic success but also contributes to a high rate of young people's suicide."

    • by Microlith (54737)

      The culture of this country does not appreciate education, and the idea of studying as hard as South Koreans or Japanese is seen as if it were child abuse or something like that.

      Considering their suicide rate among high school students is the highest in the world, it's borderline. Sending your kid to after school studies until 8PM just to reinforce what amounts to rote memorization of facts without much in the way of abstract or critical thinking isn't exactly the way to solve our education problems.

      There's

      • The culture of this country does not appreciate education, and the idea of studying as hard as South Koreans or Japanese is seen as if it were child abuse or something like that.

        Considering their suicide rate among high school students is the highest in the world, it's borderline.

        I've been in Japan, and I have not seen the so-called abuse that people so much cry about. Yes, there is a significant number of suicides in Japan compared to other countries, but to attribute it to so-called barbaric forms of education is ignorance to say the least. It is not so much that kids study more hours a day, but that they go to school more days during a year. That is all. You have crazy parents who send kids till 8PM, but so do we have here.

        What they do not have over there is the habit of letti

        • by Microlith (54737)

          I've been in Japan, and I have not seen the so-called abuse that people so much cry about.

          It's not abuse so much as immense societal pressure to achieve in school that it polarizes students into two groups: the ones driven by their parents and their subsequently skewed perspective on the value of their classes that they either succeed and burn out or drive themselves off a cliff, or they totally give up and either don't show up at all or act out.

          Yes, there is a significant number of suicides in Japan compar

          • I've been in Japan, and I have not seen the so-called abuse that people so much cry about.

            It's not abuse so much as immense societal pressure to achieve in school that it polarizes students into two groups: the ones driven by their parents and their subsequently skewed perspective on the value of their classes that they either succeed and burn out or drive themselves off a cliff, or they totally give up and either don't show up at all or act out.

            It ain't any such immense social pressure as what you describe. All you are doing is describing stereotypes from afar as if they were facts.

            Yes, there is a significant number of suicides in Japan compared to other countries, but to attribute it to so-called barbaric forms of education is ignorance to say the least.

            Barbaric? I don't think anyone has ever called it that. Rote and oppressive, yes.

            Ok, not barbaric, but rote and oppressive. The point still stands that you have made a claim linking the Japanese education system to the country's high suicide rate, a claim that is unsubstantiated. You took a very complex socio-economic problem and you pigeonhole it into a narrow (and false) cause-effect scenario just to make a (false) claim.

            What they do not have over there is the habit of letting people graduate without knowing their shit (which is what we do here.)

            Sure they do. It's entirely possible for a kid to graduate without ever setting foot in a classroom, if they're so disinclined to attend.

            No. You can't graduate fro

    • This isn't a game or something that is fixed by simply throwing money at. It is a social problem first and foremost. The culture of this country does not appreciate education, and the idea of studying as hard as South Koreans or Japanese is seen as if it were child abuse or something like that.

      >SNIP<

      Do that and in a generation you'll see a change, all without throwing the coffers out of the window and without looking for the next e-silver bullet.

      Wow, it's a good thing you're here and reading this! It sounds like you have this all figured out!

      Increasing the number of hours, having children stand when the teacher enters and leaves the room, de-emphasizing college in favor of vocational training - all of that makes perfect sense!

      It's almost like, dare I say it, you've got the answers in hand! All of your suggestions strike at the very heart of why education sucks in this country - have you contacted Peter yet? You should, you know...

      Three

    • I'm going to mention the Finns like the other guy who replied, but I'm also going to point out that they don't merely just "respect" and "compensate" teachers better. It might be the underlying cause, but being a teacher in Finland has higher REQUIREMENTS. I certainly feel I had an unrewarding experience in the US education system, and I think that goes with the mentality "Those who can't do... teach."... but putting knowledge of the subject matter they teach aside, I think there's something to be said fo
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Spodi (2259976)

      3. Teach kids to stand up when a teacher enters and leaves a room, and teach them, no, put them to clean their own class rooms as part of their daily school day.

      Sorry, but if you honestly believe this one, you are quite out of touch with how "bad seeds" behave. Having kids stand up just gives a very easy way for them to disrespect their teachers. Those who don't want to stand up won't. As a result, they will either 1) be reprimanded, which many will just rebel against even more or 2) you do nothing about it, and further distinguish and separate the "good" from the "bad". This is not how you encourage respect between student and teacher. All teachers I liked and got

    • by MidnightBrewer (97195) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:04AM (#39322829)

      I teach in Japan, so I would not recommend it as a model. As a matter-of-fact, here in Osaka they are lauding the idea of adopting the "No Child Left Behind" model, I kid you not. Education over here is very, very broken. And that's *with* the teeth of the teachers' unions pulled (they're banned from striking), so good luck thinking that union-busting is going to do you any good, either. The only reason that Japan scores higher is the ridiculous amount of money that parents throw away on cram schools, where the real education is done. You could do away with public education altogether in Japan for all the good it does anybody.

      By the way, to dispel some of your other misconceptions about Japanese education:

      1. Kids here do stand up when the teacher enters or leaves. That has zero impact on anything, including actual respect for the teacher. It just teaches the kids that if they follow certain societal niceties they can get away with anything.

      2. Vocational training at Japanese schools is restricted to dedicated vocational schools. They are considered the last place you want to teach because discipline is terrible and student behavior worse.

      3. Commercials that laud education on TV in Japan? No such thing. Commercials in Japan are just as rampant as on American television, and just as vapid. There are a couple of channels run by NHK that offer educational programming, but they're dedicated channels; easily avoided by kids who aren't interested.

      I don't think this X-Prize nonsense is going to get anywhere, but I don't think that you should be looking to Japan for advice, either. They've attempted to model themselves after the Germans and, failing that, are going after the Americans now. The real problems in the US and Japan are the administrative bureaucrats who haven't actually ever taught, and the fact that people blame teachers for EVERYTHING. You would never blame a PE teacher for your kid being less physically capable than other kids, because bodies are easy to judge. However, trying to make schools crank out grade-A students by tweaking some sort of magical formula that works for everyone is nonsense, too. Some kids are better at certain subjects; some are worse. Some have discipline problems because they don't fit well into rigid systems; some because their parents neglect them, or worse, beat them.

      Do you know what the magic bullet is? Tailor-make curriculums for each child based on what he or she can and cannot do. We have the resources and the technology; stop treating everyone like they're cookie-cutter equal, because they're not. The best thing you could do for a kid who is academically challenged is give him more attention, and those who can self-study less; in that way, you're much more likely to bring them up to a similar level in the end, or at least put them in a place where they'll actually learn things that will enable to live a fulfilling life based on their true aptitude.

      And stop grading kids on a curve. it only hides the problem and punishes success. Worst idea ever.

    • From the article: 'He said he has considered multiple directions that an Education X Prize could take, such as coming up with better ways to crowd-source education, or rewarding the creation of "powerful, addictive game" that promotes education.

      This isn't a game or something that is fixed by simply throwing money at. It is a social problem first and foremost. The culture of this country does not appreciate education, and the idea of studying as hard as South Koreans or Japanese is seen as if it were child abuse or something like that.

      But he isn’t sure which way to go.

      What strikes me about the article is, he wants to "fix" education but he doesn't tell us what's wrong with it.

      Doomed to failure.

  • A simple, one-three hour test can only quantify certain types of ability. Academia, how ever, use these tests to measure almost every type of ability...and that is incorrect. It HAS to be incorrect, because of the broad nature of human knowledge.

    I'm not saying we need to devise ways to make education painless. Life isn't painless, and neither should be education. But, devising accurate ways to measure a student's ability should decrease students' perceptions that tests, and therefore education, aren't worth

    • by obi1one (524241)
      But isnt that irrelevant when (at least a large part of) the issue is that the US is consistently placing low in exams when compared to other countries? If the students take the same exams, and US students suck while students in other countries do well, the fact that exams arent a perfect way of measuring all types of ability doesnt seem that important. If you are talking about the focus on exam scores within the school system, still, if we are overly focused on exams we should be doing overly well on the
      • by ThorGod (456163)

        But isnt that irrelevant when (at least a large part of) the issue is that the US is consistently placing low in exams when compared to other countries?

        If tests are invalid or inappropriately depended upon, then the standardized tests used to contrast/compare countries' students are just possibly invalid, as well.

        Take the GRE, for instance. Some people do nothing but study for the GRE FOR YEARS. Are their scores going to be better, on average, than the average student's? Yes...but their list of abilities might start and end with "getting a good score on the GRE".

  • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @07:41PM (#39320947)
    The problem is not that our education system is broken. The problem is that the students don't get the education reinforced outside of school. Either because of their friends, that their parents aren't at home, or their parents just don't care, these students are being told-through words and actions-that they don't need an education, or getting an education is too hard, or that its stupid. They can make more money playing sports, or dealing drugs, or robbing houses, or whatever. They are being told this by their family, their friends, their peers, and their society/culture. It doesn't matter how you change the system, how much money you throw at it, because the problem does not lie within the system. It exists outside of it.
  • Back in 2002, I was doing some theorizing on True Artificial Intelligence, and one of the applications I realized is that it'd make a perfect teacher. But more importantly, I realized we could create a computerized teaching system without having achieved AI. Lets start:

    1) Digitize all education books saying copyright is holding us back. Suddenly you have about a million dollars in worth of ebooks for every student at the cost of 100 dollars for an ebook reader or laptop. This in itself would be an educa
  • I think that the Traditional College system is not the best fit for lot’s of jobs and there are better ways to learn and to show that you have skills.

    Harvard Study: Too Much Emphasis On College Education?
    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2011/0202/Does-everyone-need-a-college-degree-Maybe-not-says-Harvard-study [csmonitor.com]

    http://hotair.com/archives/2011/02/02/harvard-study-hey-maybe-were-placing-too-much-emphasis-on-a-college-education/ [hotair.com]
    “It would be fine if we had an alternative system [for students who

  • A big part of the problem with education in the US is a symptom of the anti-science, anti-education views of a significant segment of the population. Once the entire population is convinced that only through a re-investment in science and math will the US remain competitive in the global economy -- you can bet the Chinese have understood this very well.

    This then also means pour lots of funds into science and technology R&D. (Its so hard to get grants now that it is turning many students away...) Now w

  • What we need is a holodeck.
    Where we can simulate every posible learning experience.

  • Well, if I had a magic wand to wave, I'd abolish every College of Education at every university in the U.S.A, and require that all teachers have degrees in the subjects that they teach (e.g. mathematics, history, physics, etc.).

    Degrees in education boomed beginning in the late 50's to early 60's, which happens to correspond very nicely with the start of the decline in K-12 education. Based on my own observation of many B.S.Ed. graduates, I believe there's a great deal of causation behind that correlation.

    H

  • I find it disappointing how often people keep trying to duct tape a textbook and a video game together. It inevitably ends up the worst of both: a boring game with some shallow facts littered around.

    Compare this to the Exploratorium: lots of things set up that are perfectly fun to play with in their own right, and only a minimal amount of writeup and lecture surrounding them in a nonimposing way... But all of them intriguing in a way that makes you stop and think: "wait... How does that WORK?". Once tha

  • by Internetuser1248 (1787630) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:28PM (#39321335)
    My first suggestion would be to go back over the work of those who have studied this problem in depth. Recommended reading: Maria Montessori, Ivan Illich, Rudolph Steiner (That last one is a bit fruity but there are still some interesting ideas in it).

    Having done that myself to a limited degree, I can identify numerous areas where improvement is possible. Firstly I think the concept that you learn X at age Y should be ditched. If you don't know how to read at age 5Y you should still be able to use the standard education system, as most information in modern society is less prevalent than reading, and there should be nothing stopping me from learning high school geography for example at 29, and nothing forcing me to learn it at 16. Which brings me to the second area, and in my mind the most important: No one should be forced to learn anything, learning should be self directed and interest based. This is where people often jump down my throat and say 'that would never work'. Ivan Illich has many strong arguments for this idea, but I usually go the route of disputing the objections. Axioms: people dont like learning, learning is necessary. Therfore: people must be forced to learn. The problem is axiom 1. People love learning, all animals do, it is called play. This is an artificial distinction in my opinion as play and education were basically synonymous for millions of years, until the education system was invented. If you take an average child before school age, they are generally full of question, always exploring and testing. Then you send them to school. Let's just say that it is not inconceivable that with a better education system people might enjoy learning. They might continue to learn throughout life and without the need for government funding or attendance legislation. The goal of learning should be to teach the value of learning. Another area that could be improved, and the primary one being discussed by other posts in this thread, is the relationship between teachers and education, in that it is clearly dysfunctional in the current system. All of us at one time or another have had teachers that made us worse at the subject they taught. This is not the teachers' fault alone, there are circumstances such as their own education, their working conditions, the attitudes of parents, students and other staff, personal life, health, etc. This is a failure of the system. The avenue I would pursue in rectifying this would be to look at reducing the role of teachers in the system. I am not suggesting their replacement by technology, whilst this seems attractive on the surface, it is severely limited and could even be counter-productive in many cases. I would look more in the direction of students teaching each other. Developing networks of people with similar interests and levels of understanding, and moving the role of teacher to a more passive one. Teachers should be there to oversee the learning, and make sure the correct teaching is being presented and that misconceptions/mistakes don't get caught up in the program. They should also be there as an expert, to demonstrate procedures and answer questions. The idea that the teacher has to regulate every step of the learning process is one of the reasons their role is currently not working. There are many more areas that need work and new ideas, but this is a post on slashdot, not a novel. Oh and Please don't go the addictive games route. If a game has to be addictive to get played then it has no value, if it had value it would not need to be addictive. Games as education is a great idea in general, just remove the word addictive from the sentence.
  • Education can't be fixed by an idea. Education is a cultural, social, and economic "problem".

    Psychological tricks like gamifying the system won't change a culture which doesn't encourage learning and sometimes actively discourages it. A Khan Academy won't help students who don't feel at ease at home because their family is riddled with stress and hostility. A Khan Academy won't help a kid who doesn't have access to a personal computer and internet. "But everyone has access to the internet nowadays or will

  • We're monkeys programmed to learn by interacting with things. Any learning system that stuff kids in a classroom 7-10 hours a day, behind a desk staring at books is doomed to failure.

  • by buddyglass (925859) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:09PM (#39321679)
    I'm reminded of the adage about horses, water and drinking. The amount of effort today's students are willing to put forth is pretty amazingly low. That's more or less because even with a low level of effort (and correspondingly low performance) they're in no danger of: 1) being kicked out of school, 2) being held back a grade, or 3) being routed onto a "non-college" track. You're left with self-motivation (which is semi-rare) and external consequences assigned by parents. Only many parents opt out, so often you don't even have that. Most recommendations for "fixing" education deal with tweaking "the water" in the horse analogy so that it's somehow more nourishing. The best, most effective water in the world isn't worth much, though, when the horse won't drink.
  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:10PM (#39321683)
    The Neatherlands already fixed education. All you do is ban private schools and require all schools receive equal funding proportionate to their student body. When the rich kids have to go to the same quality of school as the poor kids, well what do you know? The schools get better. It's not rocket surgery.
  • As a math teacher, I'm tired of every Joe Millionaire stepping up and saying that education needs to be fixed. Education isn't the problem. For the millionaires who don't understand yet...public education is not about raising test scores. Public education is about civilizing our citizens. Without public education, the public will not understand civility en mass. As a teacher in a high-poverty rural school district, and I've seen how uncivil kids and adults can be even when they're educated. If we don't force parents to educate their kids, they'll run free, they'll run wild, and they'll be a plague on our populace.

    That being said, if you want to raise test scores, there is one variable that has more correlation than all the others combined. Poverty. And I have the numbers to back it up. Using my home state of Minnesota as an example, look at the state test results [startribune.com] hosted by the Star Tribune. Run a correlation study between percent proficiency on either test, and the % of test takers that are low-income. (Remove the districts w/ the small samples of less than 10 -- they're specialized cooperatives & magnet schools whose sample of students taking the test do not follow the same sampling as with general Independent School Districts.) Even better, run it on just the Minneapolis / St. Paul Metro Area districts.

    I haven't calculated the results for 2011 yet, but I ran it for 2010 in the metro area. Metro-wide, the correlation coefficient between % proficient and low-income for math was -0.91 and -0.93 for reading. That's insane. You almost never get correlation coefficients that good anywhere in statistics, but it's happening here. Forget teachers. Forget schools. The single biggest factor impacting education is poverty and low-income. (And for those who want to chant, "correlation is not causation," I challenge you to walk into any inner-city school district and witness the behavior yourself. I promise you, there's more than just correlation there.)

    If millionaires really wanted to fix schools, they'd have a much greater impact on education (and our society at large) if they gave away their money to the poor. Better yet, set up a stipend program like Brazil [fordham.edu] and other countries have.

  • by melted (227442) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:43PM (#39321905) Homepage

    Forget the misguided idea that everyone is "equal" no matter their IQ or the effort they put in. "Leave" freeloaders "behind", as it were. Segregate schools into "gifted" and "not", make transition possible for those who want to get to the "gifted" track. Make the "gifted" track hard, but interesting. Sorry, kids, if you don't perform, back to the "crappy" school you go. Put the bar for "gifted" school above the internationally accepted standard, don't admit everyone. Adjust the split of resources between "gifted" and "crappy" track in accordance with the number of kids in each.

    Right now the situation is absurd. My second grader is two years ahead of everyone else in his class academically (it remains to be seen if he's gifted or not, he's quite lazy), yet he can't get into a "gifted" program because spots are allocated by (wait for it...) lottery. This is his first year in public school, and probably the last. He will go to a hardcore private school starting next year, and I'll be shelling out something like 20K/year to keep him there. I find it rather unfortunate that smart kids from low income families will not be able to realize their potential. I also find it unfortunate that I'm paying real estate taxes for the shitty schools that don't teach kids anything, and have no real means to change the situation.

  • A computer game idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:18PM (#39322519) Journal

    Quantum mechanics, special relativity and general relativity are all very hard to learn, in part because they are so counterintuitive. Imagine a computer game which throws you into a universe where SR (or quantum mechanics or GR) have large, easily measurable effects - e.g. the speed of light is about 50m/s. After you've spent enough time zipping around on your relativistic motorcycle shooting zombies (or whatever), you should be able to intuitively understand SR, and the mathematics will become easy. (Well, as easy as Newtonian physics, anyhow.)

  • by Americium (1343605) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:23PM (#39322547)
    18,000 per pupil per year in NJ, 14 student to teacher ratio = $252,000 each teacher brings in. Avg salary, 55,000. What kind of insane overhead costs are those. And these schools are all in the red anyway. Allow charter schools and I'm sure we'll get some great education considering how much we are spending already.

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