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Government-imposed education is obsolete

Posted: 2013-11-30

This is from the Ogden Standard-Examiner, Nov. 30, 2013. He is the author of Educating for Human Greatness.

Many Americans are too young to remember the old typewriters that had each letter on the end of a slim rod that flipped up and hit an ink-impregnated ribbon that slid along the paper as the message was typed. Neither do they know that the arrangement of the keys was deliberately designed in 1873 to slow the typist from typing too fast. If s/he typed too fast, the keys would jam when falling back into place. This old QWERTY keyboard is still found on all computers, and electronic tablets. Most of the frequently used letters are placed in awkward places, away from the home row to slow typists down.

Most people also do not know that there is a keyboard designed by a time-and-motions specialist, August Dvorak, in 1936 that places vowels and the most frequently used keys on the home row. It is easier to learn, faster to use with fewer mistakes and less fatiguing. This Dvorak keyboard is deep within the software of most PC computers and can be accessed to use.

Why have education, business and technology leaders refused to change the keyboard even when facts and science overwhelmingly prove that there is a better one? Is it the same reason they refuse to change public education even when evidence is overwhelming? Are they so trapped in tradition that they can't change?

The conventional form of education is to teach reading, writing, mathematics and two or three other subjects as a way to standardize and make students alike in knowledge and skills, even when evidence is overwhelming that each person is different from all others. Ever since the government issued the "Nation at Risk Report in 1983, several so called "reforms" have tried to do a better job of standardizing students. The phrase around which these reforms were carried out is "Higher Standards."

No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and the Common Core were all implemented to improve standardization of students, but like the QWERTY keyboard, they actually slowed it down, and prevented changes that would bring a quantum leap in learning. With a focus on standardization, students were either slowed or prevented from finding and developing their individual talents and abilities. Teachers have been demoralized as they are expected to do an impossible thing: make students alike in knowledge and skills for required, grade-level check-points.

Years of government-contrived and imposed standardization reforms show miniscule increases in student achievement, no closing of the learning gap between rich and poor, and an increase in bullying, dropouts and suicides.

We now know there are some things more important to learn in school (and at home) than reading, writing and arithmetic. Four of them are: 1) a sense of self-worth that comes from finding and developing one's unique self, one's talents, gifts, interests and abilities; 2) the magnification of curiosity, and the ability to ask important questions; 3) the ability to interact respectfully with others; and 4) the power of imagination and creativity. We also know that when teachers and parents unite to help students develop these four things, students not only learn basic skills faster and better, but they also gain knowledge that they retain and use. If we deliberately change the main thrust of education from standards for uniformity to standards for human variety, student achievement accelerates like a Dvorak keyboard.

Educating for human greatness, or educating for human genius, (EFHG) is like a new "keyboard" or framework that can be used by educational policy makers, teachers and parents in Utah to lead the nation in the urgently needed transformation of public education. EFHG is a model wherein parents, teachers and students unite in a different kind of relationship -- a relationship that restores teaching as a respected profession and brings out enthusiasm and creativity in everyone.

The bottom line is this: Each child is born with a special reason to exist as a contributor, not a burden, to society. If we help each child find and develop this reason, we will drastically reduce suicides, bullying, dropouts, and student apathy; and we will markedly increase student accomplishment. Let's hope we will not be as slow to adopt this purpose for education as we have been to adopt the streamlined Dvorak keyboard. It's urgent, because students are being cheated every day from developing as individuals who have amazing, unlimited potential to make the world better for everyone.

Lynn Stoddard speaks and writes from the perspective of both a parent (12 children) and an educator (36 years as a teacher and principal in public schools). He lives in Farmington and can be reached at lstrd@yahoo.com and efhg.org

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