A recent debate has me meditating on the concept of education.
We all know that there are large, fundamental problems in how the United States handles education. It’s extremely expensive, our students spend entire years of finite life wholly dedicated to their schooling (both in class and via homework), and yet still we lag behind so many countries on common measures. I, myself, have often referred to public schools as prisons without cots or cable when I have considered the amount of time spent in a concrete building with metal detectors, guards, and sometimes time-locked doors. Great minds like Aaron Clarey profit off those low-skilled, ill-prepared products of the education establishment who have finally realized they need to seize control of their lives and develop valuable skills.
I propose that the way we view education, as an establishment, is broken at its roots. When we embraced John Dewey’s ideas that schools existed to prepare students for their role in society (an idea taken directly from Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto), we created a monstrosity that caters to a government-established mean, which holds back the intelligent and fails to properly educate the slow. Between teachers that can’t (or don’t really want to) teach but often cannot be fired, curricula that teach dogma instead of critical thinking, standards that restrict energetic children to uncomfortable desks for hours at a stretch, and a massive government department dedicated to regulation, we’ve got a massive structure that cannot be reformed but continues to produce lower and lower results.
A Radical Proposal
The basic ideas I’m about to lay out are based on the education systems of the ancients. It’s a decentralized, unregulated, fundamentally libertarian approach to education that requires each individual citizen to invest in themselves and their children. I cannot guarantee that they would produce better outcomes within a generation, but such an open-market concept would almost necessarily promote independent learning and development, which are known to produce better general results.
- Education degrees should be abolished. There’s no reason a person should spend 16 years in school to teach the ABCs to toddlers. Instead, teaching should always be done by those who have mastered skills and demonstrated the ability and desire to teach.
- Primary education should be provided primarily the elderly and the parents. Part of this idea derives from the Chinese word for teacher, which basically translates to “the Elder’s Job”. This would encourage the development of the excellent, allow for maximum attention to the slow, and eliminate the restrictive nature of modern education systems. (Assuming Social Security is not abolished, this and similar work could be treated as a condition for payment).
- Apprenticeships should be encouraged in greater ranges of fields. For example, a child with an engineer’s mind should be apprenticed out to other engineers, to both learn the required skills and glean the benefits of decades of their masters’ experience. In return, masters would gain the benefits of cheaper labor for the duration of the apprenticeship. These apprenticeships should be of greater availability to both the young (teenagers) and the older (adults).
- Universities should be replaced with something akin to an Academy. I’m thinking publicly-supported institutions where anyone can teach, anyone can attend, and there are exchanges of ideas without accreditation, testing, or certification. While the Academy itself would be funded by its individual community, each teacher would be paid directly by the students, to promote the excellent and restrict the incentives for the poor teachers to remain as teachers.
- Re-establish the ability for companies to test prospective employees. Current regulations are sufficiently restrictive that college degrees are now considered to be surrogate tests of knowledge, ability, and dedication. In a decentralized education establishment, new employees would have to either be vouched by their masters (in the case of apprenticeship) or tested for ability.
The simple fact remains: we are responsible for our own educations. This has always been true, but we have too often ceded that responsibility to institutions and neglected our own abilities to learn and develop. When we reestablish our own control of our fates by casting off the illusions we have crafted for ourselves, we become better people and a better society.