02 May 2006

How People Learn: Can Schools Be Made Safe and Effective?

The National Academies of Sciences Press has made available online free of charge two books relevant to this topic. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition (2000) from the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, and How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom (2005) from the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences and Education. Both books can be read online or printed for non-electronic reading.

If you have read the recent essays from Derek Bok on the state of university education, you will not be comforted to learn that K-12 education is worse--much worse. Education is resistant to reform, is almost impossible to improve, because education is an industry--a heavily politicised industry. A lot of money is at stake for vested interests, who strongly resist change out of political and financial motivations. The children and students are the helpless pawns whose lives are injured by the largely indifferent industry of education. Colleges of education at universities are in the pockets of this industry, serving the industry's interests rather than that of the population of students.

The most trivial allergy pill goes through far more scrupulous testing than the teaching methods used on helpless children in schools. There is a lot of new knowledge from cognitive science on how children learn. This knowledge is not being implemented in schools, from K-12 through universities. The knowledge is being ignored by the education industry in hopes it will go away, and leave the status quo undisturbed.

One of the reasons this is so important is the phenomenon of massive unassimilated immigration. The dropout rates for these masses of unassimilated immigrants is huge--approaching 60% and more in many areas. Their mothers and fathers are happy to be making more in their new country, but the failing, dropout children will more likely be radicalised by class envy, given a popular culture that promotes the idea of conspicuous affluence as the measure of personal worth.

If ever there was a time for adopting education methods that work, this is the time. There is no time to waste. No more dumbing down can be tolerated.

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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