Much of the investment our society makes in education is actually made in school buildings, consequential infrastructure (roads to get to school, cars to take kids to school, etc) and unproductive time traveling to and from those buildings. So, what if we were to simply close the school buildings, and redirect the funding thus released elsewhere.

How would you spend that money, to create an education system that honored the potential of our children?

Tags: classroom, controversy, school

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Luke - I am not flaming you - but you are one of the lucky ones. School came easy for you...it came easy for me too...I was bored while I was in school and put in about 1/4 of the effort that I could have. But put yourself in the shoes of those it doesn't come easy for, how hard is to learn when you go home to drunken family member, men or women who pass through your life because they are "dating" one of your parents. The physical, verbal and sexual abuses that are heaped on many of our kids. All those "wonderful" challenges that many of our students must face and we wonder why they are not interested in our boring classrooms. In many instances that boring classroom where a kid is sleeping is the safest place they will be all day long? In thinking about it school buildings have evolved into more than just academics, they in many communities have taken the place of the family?????and are the safest place around despite how dangerous some have become. Do we want that job (being a safety net) - not really but it is the truth in many places, we provide many of the skills that were previously the families responsibility. I have changed my mind, I believe that due to societal pressures that we need to keep school buildings until they can be replaced by something in the community that will be more effective. (Which probably won't happen)

Perhaps for the those brighter and more motivated students online classes that challenge them more is a great thing or why do student have to spend 4 years in high school, why not individualize education and if a student is ready to graduate at 16 academically and move to college, what is wrong with them doing so. But that is another argument.

But it seems that history is kind of repeating itself, those that have it, get more and those that don't - don't. Have a great day. Harold



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Oh believe me, I've worked with the kids whose parents would rather beat and scream the snot and spirit out of their kids then watch their favorite TV show. It's like they place all the blame for their crappy life on their child or at least take it all out on that child. And that's why, per my suggestions, those kids would still have a place to go (I love the comment that Laura mad about libraries and learning centers). Now I never said anything about not mandating education, I was just talking about getting rid of the buildings and revamping education. My point was that there are a lot of kids that could go so much farther then we let them because of our traditions. Also I think that we would be doing the lower functioning students a favor as we could then focus more time on individual instruction at their own level instead of trying to drag them along with the rest of the class even though they don't understand the concept.

This probably won't be a popular statement but, in my opinion, other countries are starting to kick our butts as far as primary education is concerned. I've spent considerable amount of time with international students (we also hosted a foreign exchange student). The high school foreign exchange student we hosted as well as many others I've talked to have all said the same thing, "School is too easy here, I learned all this stuff years ago." And most of those students were taking our advanced Physics and Calculus courses. The international students in the colleges by and large have a much better work ethic and an actual desire to learn. The most common sentiment I've heard from most American students is, "College is great, there's parties everywhere!" So are we, instead of fostering a desire to learn and acheive, really just fostering a desire to be spoon fed and handed everything? Now this is a general statement and I know that there are a large number of exceptions but its still true as far as what I've seen.

I wholeheartedly agree with you on graduating a kid when their ready, like standards based education where if the student has mastered the standard then they move on, rather then the grade based system we're stuck in.
"But for the kids that have the ability and desire to become the best they can would have opportunities like never before."

Where do these abilities and desire come from? I come from a low class family. My parents didn't expect me to be any clever. In fact, my father wanted to send me to some technical school to learn gardening because he thought I was too stupid to succeed at school (I have now a degree from Cambridge and a PhD). I was myself persuaded that I was no good to anything. For a large part due to the loads of crap that my parents were filling my head with due to their own important problems of self-esteem.

Things started to change for the better when I moved to a school environment where they had a type of constructivist type of approach. An important turning point for me was when a teacher toke the time to come by, ring at my parents' home, and tell them, when I was at ear shot, that she believed I had to move to a higher level in maths because I was clever. Waw, the first time in my life anybody had told me I was not stupid. Perhaps it would be easier to have this happen in a less "building based system". Perhaps it would be easier for teachers to reach out and address specific needs of students. But perhaps parents who don't believe in their kids will simply prevent their kids from achieving... send them to the mine or invite them to get a job to earn some money as parents things there is no point for the kid to learn anything as he already has a big looser label on the forehead. I don't know.

In my case, school and cub scouts offered me a place away from the influence of my parents. If you get rid of the schools, what do you replace it with? Kids learning from home?

"It took about 15 minutes to do the work and we had 50 minutes of time in which to do it. I would much rather have gone out and gotten a job from noon on. "

I had friends who were living in a home, with 5 siblings, with no opportunity *whastoever* to do any school work at home. I remember one friend, in particular. She had started to fail. A teacher started by making negative comments on her performance... but then, she proposed the kid to come for an hour, every week, in her class, and do some homework when there. The kid's grades started to rapidly go up. For some kids, a school offers an environment in which they can get some school work done... environment that they wouldn't find at home or anywhere else. What happens to these kids?
Hi Marielle, thanks for sharing this! Understanding the huge variety of experiences people have in their lives is really important - that's why one solution will never work for all. the challenges and needs are so diverse!

In my case, I hated the schoolroom - HATED HATED HATED it, it was time-wasting, mean-spirited, hypocritical - from fourth grade until I got to college I would call my education a travesty of the word... but I LOVED THE LIBRARY. that was my refuge. The librarians helped me find amazing books to read, and I read them. devoured them. even now, if I just walk into a library, I feel happy. So,if we want buildings, I think libraries and learning centers are much better than "schools."

I was not a bad student for all my bad feelings about school, and I wanted to learn - but what if the classroom is not always a place where people learn? By and large, it seems that the classroom is a site for failure these days... for many reasons (most of my students in college have very poor reading and writing skills after all those many YEARS in the classroom - were they cheated? did they cheat themselves of an education? no matter who we blame, the result is the same: not good). So, we do have to figure out alternatives.

Why did I love the library? It had... limitless potential... freedom to choose... diversity of content...

That is what I needed, and what I never found in the classroom, which was simply a prison for ten years of my life. Condemned to prison... for a crime I didn't commit. ha ha. Joking... but kind of serious too.

Plus, once I got to college, I most of the time cut class to go to the library anyway. Or organized reading groups with other students. That was where the learning really happened. The classroom SOMETIMES worked in college - but even then it was mainly just a great way to meet other students who shared my wacky interests. :-)
"I hated the schoolroom - HATED HATED HATED"

;). I had the same view on the first school I went to. To be fully honest, sometimes at night, I had thoughts of taking a baseball bat to explode the skull of some teachers there. The second school provided the support I needed in areas that had to do very little with learning itself. But, like Luke, I would finish in 15 minutes the exercises supposed to keep us busy for the length of the lesson. I started enjoying learning only when I got to University and I got given a lot of freedom about what topics to choose and how to organize my time and learning.

My own style of learning is one by which I learn better independently.

But I can see some utility to the schools.

The trick is to try and get the best of both worlds. Yes, in some classes I got to finish long before others, like Luke. In a first time, we set to play cards an early finisher friend and I (yes, classroom setting, lesson time). Unsurprisingly, this wasn't very popular with the teacher. Later, I went to read books, mostly in foreign languages.

A similar approach can be taken where kids who finish exercises early are allowed to use a digital teaching device of some kind.

In my experience, school was not perfect. I am really not fond at all of traditional schooling. But school was way better than the education I would have got home, with my parents as primary tutors. Also, school contributed to make me the successful person I became by giving me a support that had nothing to do with learning. The second school I went to did teach me a lot.... not at all in term of learning content. Teachers there were great role models. As adult persons (independently of their teacher status).

On the other hand, I got similar benefits from going to cub scouts as a kid.. and cub scouts don't require huge buildings and heavy road networks. Perhaps what comes out of of this is the need for being integrated into a social community (more than parents + child + tutor). Because if there is only 3 persons that come to be involved in a child's teaching, the child is really bad off if neither the parents or tutor are any inspirational.
I think it's possible to tell a kids potential even in a VLE. If you know their potential and their situation and still want to step in then the teacher could still choose to do that. I'm really glad that someone cared enough about you to step in and show you how you could succeed. We should all be doing that for the kids we interact with. I would have to say though that you were the exception, most kids don't have the person who actually takes the time to step in and offer a word of encouragement. Just like I was the exception in that school was easy for me. Any kids that were not funtioning well in the VLE could attend a learning/intervention center as mentioned by Laura below.
Interesting thoughts here, all. Obviously a building-minimal school system would not necessarily mean the end of compulsory schooling. In fact, it could mean that instead of bussing kids to the place where the teachers are, the teachers could often travel to where the kids are. I also love the description of the library/learning center. I know as a public school teacher, I find that a very unpleasant part of my job is the role of jailer/babysitter - certainly not the best use of my time nor the students' time. For every kid who feels empowered by their school experience, there are two more who have had the creativity, curiosity, and empowerment beat out of them by our unrelentingly oppressive system of over-institutionalized "education."

I think the points about having a "safe place" and personal contact are very valid. I wonder if we could meet this goal by having a building or house in each neighborhood that was used for group instruction, undistracted individual work, and scheduled meetings with instructors when necessary? In some neighborhoods, libraries or church buildings would already be set up very well for these purposes. Kind of like the ultimate one-room schoolhouse, without the expensive trappings of an institutional school building. Kids check in and out as needed, the staff could be caring people who aren't necessarily cut out to be teachers (like assistants and substitutes now). Teachers could focus on student needs (both through distance learning and face-to-face learning when needed), taking students from where they are to x + 1. Administrators could focus on keeping things running smoothly, connecting the dots. Counselors could continue their important work of helping students in crisis or difficulty. The word that comes to mind is community - true community between educators and students and their families and neighborhoods, not "this is my caseload for the year" community that values punching the clock more than meaningful results.

It's hard not to get excited imagining the possibilities.
What if schools actually worked and met the needs of all kids? Ahhh, I'll be retired in a few years and I'll miss it.
This thread seems to have run out of steam at last, so perhaps time for a round-up? The range of responses to my deliberately-controversial question has been just fantastic.

Connie came up with the only literal answer to my question (which was how would you spend the money?): travel round in a bus. Incidentally, Connie, if you want to see a real-world example of this, look at Footsbarn Theatre. They have been on the road, and on every continent, for 35 years now. They have their own school integrated into the theatre so their kids travel with them the whole time, learning as they go.

The should we/shouldn't we debate seems to hinge largely on whether your home life was worse than your school life, or vice-versa. This really changed my view of the function of a school. School-as-refuge is a function I'd never thought about, and which makes a lot of sense to me. It strongly reinforced a principle that had been lurking in the back of my mind for some time: school should be within walking distance of home. This is often achieved with primary schools, at least here in the UK, but I am now convinced that the arguments are just as strong right through the school age range. Hard for a school to be a refuge if there is a bus to catch, or a parent collecting you, at a set time.

More local schools means smaller schools. That means fewer specialist teachers on-site. That to me is one place all the web 2.0 stuff can really make a difference. Effective, remote, subject-specialist teaching.

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