Anyone, anywhere can obtain a high quality world class education at the least amount of expense or at no cost at all. In contrast, today’s schools and colleges often seem to be rather crude and rude information dispensers, pretty much like an automatic teller machine, spitting out money when the right password is entered. Education facilities are designed to dispense as much knowledge as possible in the least possible amount of time to the largest possible audience.
Today’s public schools in the United States are most often like factories, continuing to mimic an outdated industrial worker organization. Elementary students in such schools often remind me of what the Japanese call “salary men,” ennui-plagued corporate employees. The most gifted companies in the U.S. (i.e., Microsoft, Google) nurture and reward creativity in their workers, while public schools continue to run the business of knowledge acquisition as if it were simply an assembly line product.
Most normal children do have an active mind with which to start. A newborn isn’t bored. Wild animals aren’t bored. Boredom is a learned response. Parental neglect and example teach some children how to be bored. Considering the fast learners little kids are, they pick this up fast, too.
Boring times never existed in our household. We children were taught to motivate ourselves, to take care of ourselves, to truly learn, and to make whatever contributions we could to the family’s or others’ well-being and advancement. All four of us siblings were busy with lots of projects of our own. As a child, I learned to straighten out nails — in those times nails were expensive. As a teenager, I was taught how to sharpen knives on a circular whetting stone. Those “jobs” taught me how to take initiative and be thrifty. An additional benefit of tackling tasks, regardless of how mundane, is that it produces personal satisfaction and builds pride in accomplishment.
People who have never experienced boredom will see so many opportunities to do something useful or pleasing that they’ll never have enough time to pursue them all, which will be also good for their mental and physical health.
The main reason why the state of education is so dismal is because large numbers of parents have abdicated their role in the upbringing of their own children. Johnny and Jane need to be taught the way princes and princesses used to be taught, as the center of the learning experience, with teachers and tutors available to them at a moment’s notice. They need to be taught in surroundings that are conducive to learning, such as a private room or corner of their home, not in what are sometimes jail-like classrooms filled with 20 or more unruly charges who are not intent on learning.
Teachers of the future can no longer be drill sergeants whose subjects are supposed to listen and perform; they need to be educational entertainers who can entice their audience to make the effort and truly absorb, understand, and practice. Fortunately, technology provides the means to reach out to everyone who needs education and the cost is becoming insignificant.
The new types of teachers will come in three categories:
1.) as originators and administrators of tests;
2.) as presenters with the highest degree of explaining and persuasion capabilities. They’ll do the teaching that gets recorded on CDs and DVDs and that comes over the Internet or directly to one’s electronic screen; and
3.) as education facilitators or floating parent-substitutes and tutors rolled into one.
Overall there’ll be fewer teachers than there are today, because most parents will want to be the education facilitators for their kids. After all, that’s how they can pass their values and world views to their offspring, be with them, share with them, and enjoy with them the process of learning things they didn’t know or as in-depth as before.
Parents are the most significant support mechanism in making learning possible for their child or adolescent. The next best stand-in for them might be people with the interests and connectedness of the parents, in contrast to anonymous institutions educating their charges.
The learning mind needs to be nurtured, to “be present” so that learning can take place. If this process is missed or bungled, then one-to-one in-person teaching or trying to pick up knowledge from an electronic screen is likely to fail.
If, on the other hand, it does work, then the venue will matter less and distance learning via television or computer screen can be just as effective. It certainly allows for a far-greater wealth of sources and materials that can be studied.
Over time, the need for old-school-type facilities should shrink, since more and more students would be learning in locations where computer or TV screens can be found and are connected to the desired education programs. The community of students will be both virtual and physical, though virtual most of the time. Yet the student connection will be there, and most likely more intense as a result.
Once the shift to modern electronic screen learning with individual on-the-spot support becomes a workable option: Education will be broader-based and more universal in its standards, kids will learn more again, families and communities will function better, and it will be a better world for all. Not perfect, but better than today.
Excerpted from “QGE = A: Quality Generic Education is the Answer,” (University Press of America, $36, www.univpress.com) by Win Straube, founder of the Straube Center in Pennington. An inventor, scientist, and engineer who holds degrees in linguistics, economics, and law, Straube has led high-tech ventures in Europe, North America, and Asia.
Straube defines a “Quality Generic Education” as applicable to all, universally available, and not directed to a particular ideology, “the education a resident on planet earth in the 21st century should have in order to be reasonably knowledgeable and universally understood by others. Generic Education,” he writes, “provides the common language for the definition and interpretation of facts. It is globalization at the grassroots level, a prime requirement for economic and industrial globalization to work.”
QGE, Straube says, would include learning how to learn, learning the facts, and learning to think or how to arrive at conclusions and — if appropriate — act on them.