The Modern School

When Horace Mann, a lawyer from Massachusetts, conceived the concept of a new school system in the mid-1800s, it worked. His ideas became reality, and kids began to follow the “Pre-K through 12th Grade” school system. This scheme has remained the standard protocol in the U.S. education system for almost 200 years now, and it needs to change. The old system does not incorporate technology and considers everyone equal in ability. These two ideas may have worked before, but in a world that is technologically based, they fall apart. Children constantly use technology, so depriving them of it is counter-intuitive. Kids also learn at different paces, so treating them all as equals is insane. My school system would incorporate technology and separate children and teachers by ability and preference.

The first, and arguably most important part of the change in the school system is the separation of pupils by ability. When students learn, they are taught the same concepts at the same pace. Yet, the problem is that students aren’t all the same; they all learn at different speeds. Some grasp concepts faster than others, but this really doesn’t matter in today’s schools. Schools can say that they offer more learning opportunities for those who need it, but these really are small variations. The school system that Horace Mann created marches forever forward, and never changes pace. Those who cannot keep up are permanently lost, and those who understand the concepts quickly are held back. My school system would separate kids by ability, so those who are slower at understanding concepts have more time to soak up the knowledge. Those who move at the (now) normal pace would also be grouped together and they could get all the necessary knowledge. Those who tend to take in information faster would be grouped together so that after learning the necessary knowledge, they could learn more.

One result of this separation by ability also calls for the abandoning of grades.  This might seem foreign, but take a second to think about it. Schools right now have a systematic “learning tree.” A good example of this is with math; first comes numbers, then adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, fractions, etc. This system usually is broken up into grade levels: numbers for Pre-K and Kindergarten, adding and subtracting for 1st and 2nd grade, multiplying and dividing for 3rd grade, fractions for 4th, etc. With my system, kids would learn these mathematical concepts one after the other, providing that they understand what they know before and they can build upon it. Saying that multiplication is only for 3rd graders is limiting to those 1st graders who already understand adding and subtracting. Why should they have to wait two years to learn something that they can learn and understand now? That’s what it’s about – the school system limiting some and pushing others forward prematurely.

Another benefit of my school system would be the separation of pupils by preference and desire. Right now, the school system has everybody learning everything. This can become very annoying to some students who prefer some subjects over other subjects. By making kids learn concepts that they don’t want to, many are discouraged. They want to focus on one subject, but they know that if they do that and their grades slump in other subjects, problems can arise. This is yet another example of how Horace Mann’s school system discourages kids from learning more than what they can or want. My school system would have students choose what classes to specialize in. This does not mean choosing some courses to take and some to dump. Instead, all kids will still learn all the subjects, just they will focus on one or two subjects. Those who like math and science can have longer and more advanced courses in that while still learning the necessary materials from ELA and social studies. This would encourage students to learn more of what they want, and hopefully accelerate the learning process and make it more efficient.

Another key element to creating the ideal school system would be to separate teachers by preference. Teachers would of course teach students the subject that they are qualified for. This idea won’t change because it is still valid in today’s situation. What would change is that teachers would teach according to what speed of students they prefer the most. Some teachers are better with kids who are slower; they can explain extremely well and get someone to understand. There are other teachers who go at a normal pace and don’t push students but don’t push them forward. They would work with the mid-speed kids. Lastly there are teachers who are very smart and good at their subjects. They can explain concepts quickly and thoroughly while still being able to answer all of the deep questions that could arise from students. They would obviously work with the faster kids to further accelerate their learning potential and knowledge. Teachers are important because they are still one of the key elements in the school system, so making them perfect is ideal.

The last, and maybe the most important change in the school system, is the incorporation of technology. Right now, technology is a privilege reserved for teachers; they use it to teach some lessons, but not all. Alternatively, students have no access to technology in class. Pupils work with books, packets, worksheets, and notes. Technology could eliminate the need for any paper to be used in the class and would make teachers’ lives much easier. My idea for the integration of technology is as follows: Students are given working tablets. They have an application installed which restricts access to the internet while granting an administrator (teacher) power to control the tablet at any point. A system for controlling other screens already exists, so that wouldn’t be a problem. Teachers’ lessons would be made as worksheets and would be sent out to students as assignments. Pupils can then write on those worksheets with an overlay software and submit those papers to be graded. Students can also “file” those papers into notes if the teacher doesn’t need them. If students are having problems, teachers can take control of the tablets and explain with writing, or come over to the student and explain just like normal. Teachers perform this process with all aspects of learning, from taking notes to tests. Everything would also be very neat and organized, as teachers’ worksheets are all pre-created, notes can be taken down by pupils or given by the teacher, and there is no risk of losing anything. That’s how technology can drastically change the learning environment in schools.

For now, that’s all I have for changing schools. These ideas are ideal alternatives to our current educational situation. Splitting pupils and teachers by ability and preference will help everyone learn and understand more, while technology will save the environment and make teaching much smoother. All in all, this system would outshine its predecessor ten-fold.

I am going to say that this post is done, but if you enjoyed it, check back every now and then as I might just have added another paragraph…

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