Public Education: Start Again

If you could start from zero, what would public education look like?

Education Starts At Conception

Posted by Stephen Dill on January 5, 2011

Parents are the First Teachers

In the new education paradigm, education will be a lifelong habit. With the demand to stay up with the pace of change as motivation and the positive effect of learning something new as incentive, each of us will be students throughout our lives, starting at conception and continuing until death. Some may ask, “Why isn’t this happening now?” No simple answers, but “education” for so many  has been nothing but a dim memory for the majority of their lives. And most of what they remember is the dominating teachers, worthless courses, embarrassing failures, sleepless nights, and for some, physical abuse of their “formative years.” On top of that, society demanded that they leave whatever dreams or passions may have been inspired during their youth behind them and immerse themselves in the rat race.

A minority of the world population can delay that call to labor by attending a secondary institution, and fewer still go on to masters degrees and doctorates, but that’s expensive. Therein lies another factor for why education isn’t close to lifelong now: the investment is daunting and the return in economic terms is hard to determine. In other words, the world’s societies do not support lifelong education.

Most parents are not ready to parentNurture Shock is proof parents need to learn how to parent

Reading through Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman is a wake-up call for anyone who is a parent, wants to be a parent, or has ever thought about how human development happens in children of all ages. Leaving full descriptions of the book to others, let’s cut to the chase: most parents of the last 30 years have been operating on the assumption that they had an innate sense of what was best for their children. According to science, very few did. Sample a few of the chapter titles and you will begin to get the picture:

  • The Inverse Power of Praise (Sure he’s special. But new research suggests if you tell him that, you’ll ruin him. It’s a neurobiological fact.)
  • The Lost Hour (Around the world, children get an hour less sleep than they did thirty yeas ago: The cost: IQ points, emotional well-being, ADHD, and obesity.)
  • Why Kids Lie (We may treasure honesty, but the research is clear. Most classic strategies to promote truthfulness just encourage kids to be better liars.)
  • The Science of Teen Rebellion (Why, for adolescents, arguing with adults is a sign of respect, not disrespect—and arguing is constructuive to the relationship, not destructive.)

Are you beginning to understand why I was so excited as I read this book? The concept of “education starts at conception” was driven by one of the two observations explained in the first post (the Mission Statement) that spawned the whole idea of starting public education over: “Teach people to parent as well as we teach them to give birth.”

Sounded good, but I was not clear on what the curriculum was going to be based on. Now I am, or at least some of it. Beyond this will be elements of nutrition, financial management, career planning, and the crucial skills of how to learn by teaching. First their first (or next) child in utero, then others in the community that builds around them to support them and model the new world of education as lifestyle.

What could we expect for outcomes? Individually we should begin to hear of, witness, or experience for ourselves fewer examples of dysfunctional home environments. In the first few years after the program launch, society begins to see the benefits in lowered instances of pediatric medical demand, better nutrition, decreased childhood obesity, and more.

Think communal living on a global scale. Gradually everyone becomes more comfortable with higher levels of interpersonal interaction among families on both a local level and globally with online communities for learning, coaching, and support. This results in better socialization (for all ages!), greater awareness of everyone’s individuality and understanding of those differences, and overall improvement of lifestyles and life expectations. Coming into contact with so many more diverse populations heightens interest in sharing what we know and learning more.

Idealistic, I know. But there has to be a better way to inspire a desire for lifelong learning into the minds of every human being than the system we have now. And I do not believe it unreasonable to expect widespread societal improvements as an offshoot of such a system. (Ergo, I suspect there are numerous correlations between the ills of society today and the education system we are saddled with. But that is a distinctly different discussion!)

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