Our educational system is rooted in a century-old model which straddled the agricultural and industrial ages.
It was a time when only some kids attended school, and fewer went beyond the eighth grade.
No one attended during the busy growing and harvesting season.
Jobs were plentiful and most didn’t require academic skills.
Teachers were primarily single women with some college, who taught morals and trained kids to memorize facts.
It worked just fine.
As more families left farms for factories, and fathers took on city jobs, they could no longer apprentice their sons in manual and agricultural skills.
Nor did they need to.
Compulsory education laws were passed and children started attending schools in greater numbers and for longer stints.
After the mid-century war, blacks migrated to northern cities, as whites fled to the suburbs and passed budgets for sprawling schools staffed by women and increasing numbers of men who unionized the faculties.
The educators were primarily those who succeeded in, and liked school as they experienced it, so, they sought to maintain, not revolutionize it.
Parents, too, had expectations based on the model of their own school experience.
Modest adjustments, like new math and whole language were ridiculed.
The school cultural was static and resistant to change even as the society was undergoing broad upheavals
Women started working, and parenting was outsourced to day-care centers.
Latch-key kids rode yellow buses to empty houses.
Race, poverty, immigration, dysfunction, politics, and divorce all entered the schoolhouse.
Knowledge proceeded to double by the decade, as workers saw the life-long career platform fade into a new employment world of musical chairs.
The curriculum expanded slightly, but survived largely intact.
Our world went digital but our thinking stayed analog.
Even as we employ computers, smart boards and iPads, we clutch onto much of the yellowing curriculum and arthritic methods as if they were the owner’s manual to success.
Our template is more past than future.
Global comparisons scare us into action.
The committee organized by the Council on Foreign Relations recently concluded that 30% of high school graduates do not do well enough on an aptitude test to serve in the military.
And that's the graduates.
We sense that something is wrong, but, rather than considering an educational revolution, we prescribe a program of evaluating teachers; a bureaucratic alchemy contest in search of educational gold.
Regretfully, a reasonable definition of schooling has become the study of things that help one get through school…not life.
We have spell-check.
We need think-check.
As schools vigorously teach to the test, they should be teaching to the future.