Charles Sosnik: It’s time to disband education’s “factory model”

Published on May 8, 2019

If you had a chance to catch my last article, you know that families are walking away from traditional public education in record numbers.

One quarter of all school-aged children do not attend a traditional public school. These students left to find a better learning experience. Whether out of safety concerns or just the desire to have a say-so in their child’s education, American parents are pulling their kids out of public schools.

Maybe they need our help. If you could create the perfect school of the future, what would it look like?

Not to give away my age, but the last time I had hair, many of you were not even born yet. I remember the Kennedys, but they were in politics, not music. I even had a leisure suit.

The school I attended was much like my dad’s school. He was born in 1923, and back when he went to school they sat in rows, listened to the teacher talk for an hour or so, a bell would ring, and then he’d repeat the experience in another classroom. Everyone was separated by age groups and their learning was evaluated in general terms by the letter grades A, B, C, D and F. He did this from age 6 until age 17. The only difference for me was that I went until I was 18 and had four years of high school instead of three.

Since you are reading this on Grit Daily, chances are you were born in the 80s or even the 90s. What was your school like? I’ll bet it was a lot like mine, and probably a lot like my dad’s school. What about your own kid’s school? Still sitting in rows, listening to the teacher pass out knowledge like it was gold? Still measuring what they learn with an A, B, C, D or F?

The education system that my dad attended, the one I attended, the one you attended and even the ones your children attend is antiquated. It is based on a factory model that first showed up in North America 150 years ago. Google anything that is still the same as it was 150 years ago. Even factories are radically different than they were 150 years ago.

It’s time for a change

Our school model was first put in place to prepare children for the world they would enter in the 1850s. If you could have the opportunity to create the perfect school system to prepare children to enter the world in 2040, what would that look like?

Please take a few minutes to consider the following questions, think it through a bit and jot down your answers.

What skills will they need in 2040?

What basic knowledge will they need in 2040?

What jobs are likely to disappear by 2040?

What new jobs will take their place in 2040?

Should students attend school remotely from home?

Are school buildings still necessary?

What would be the role of the teacher?

How should learning be assessed?

What should the role of college be?

Should we create an apprentice system?

How should business and industry play into this?

Should we still have grade levels?

Does learner age matter?

How should we measure learning? Through badges?

How important is socialization? School sports? After school clubs and organizations?

What technology will we need?

What new technology is likely to emerge?

What is the overall purpose of education?

Should we be concerned that changing the nature of schools could disrupt a trillion-dollar industry?

This is damn important stuff, so let’s all participate. I believe that none of us is as smart as all of us, so I am going to take all your responses and put together a plan for a school of the future based on our ideas. It will be interesting to see where we land.

As one of the top journalists covering learning and education, I would appreciate if you would share this through your social channels so we can get a critical mass and weigh in on Grit Daily’s accompanying social media poll on the issue.

I’ll let you know what our new school looks like, and I’ll share our new design with today’s school leaders through my columns in the education press. Let’s decide right now to change the future of education for the better. Maybe it’s just that simple.

Charles Sosnik is a Columnist at Grit Daily. He is an education journalist and editor living in picturesque Gastonia, North Carolina. He is an education fellow at the EP3 Foundation and frequent writer and columnist for some of the most influential media in education including The Learning Counsel, NSBA Journal, EdNews Daily and edCircuit.

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