Education is stuck in a hundred-year-old rut

by Becca Hoekstra
The Guardsman

In the fast-paced world of Google, social media and the 24/7 news cycle, our Industrial Age education system is a dinosaur relic in need of retirement.

Get this: the standardized test is almost 100 years old; it was invented in 1914. Today, we throw away smart phones, one of our primary sources for information, after just one year.

Our current system of education was developed during the Industrial Age and the rise of the factory, when mass production and efficiency were most valuable.

That system of education was built to instill character-building traits that were necessary for the world at the time, such as obedience, the ability to complete repetitive, individual tasks (as opposed to whole jobs) and clockwork punctuality.

So if higher education is supposed to be geared towards getting us a better job than generic factory worker, why does it prepare us for the world as if it still works that way?

The technologies used in many jobs today are fast-paced, varied and invasive beyond the 9-to- 5 regimen. No student is suffering from a lack of information.

The answers to every question are a few keystrokes and a click away.

Our resources extend far beyond the professor at the front of the classroom.

The world we live in is one of almost unlimited options, yet the primary way of testing our ability to survive in today’s workforce offers only four.

Rather than standardized testing, we need to learn how to synthesize information from a range of topics, and be able to judge and discern valuable facts from the information avalanche crashing down upon us at every moment.

There is more value today in being able to disseminate information briefly and concisely, often in less than 160 characters, than through verbose reiterations over the course of seven to ten pages.

Rather than an academic essay, why not encourage students to present their argument via a YouTube video? Or blog posts? Or a thoughtful (and kind) discussion in the comments section?

It’s not like grammar and organization get thrown out the window when an essay is no longer long-form.

Our attention spans work fundamentally differently today.

Networked forms of communication changed human interaction, human attention and human labor.

No, we can’t pay attention to that three hour lecture, no matter how stimulating or interesting it may be. Not when we come from a world constantly bombarding us with information from advertisements, TV shows and status updates.

Yes, everyone is going to look at their phone during their class. Why not incorporate that fact into the lecture, via some hashtag-centered discussion that can take place in utter silence?

It’s impossible to prepare for the future by practicing the same way we did in the past. We no longer use typewriters, telegrams, VCRs or cassettes.

We don’t even use the huge, clunky desktop computers of only a decade past.

All these earlier forms of communication and conveying information have long since been updated.

So how much longer do we have to wait for a 21st century education?

Follow becca on Twitter: @heartbreak_news

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