Monday, February 28, 2005

Education in America -- what should be done

This is based on a post on Fark. I'm copying it here to flesh out a bit a little later:

Education has (or should have) two goals which sometimes conflict: strive to maximize individual achievement and try to instill shared values (what E. D. Hirsch called "Cultural Literacy").

Unfortunately, it seems like public schools instead try to minimize differences instead of maximizing achievement (to be fair, home schoolers sometimes ignore socialization and replace cultural literacy with religious indoctrination).

I'm not sure if there is any solution to the problem -- at least not one that will be acceptable to everyone. If I could wave a magic wand, I would pick a system that allocate resources like investments -- if investing $7 in student A and $3 in student B yields a better result for society than $5 apiece, I'd go with the unequal distribution. I'd also be a lot more fluid in school promotion, with a bit finer control than simply skipping or holding back a grade.

Finally, I would definitely switch to year-round schooling (45/15 or switch to 4 days per week and increase the number of weeks until it balances out), and experiment with things like vouchers and a la carte schooling (students partially home-schooled but who pay for certain subjects taught at a public or private school).


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