Education is not broken.
Although this might feel like an odd opening sentence for a book exploring Ten Things Schools get Wrong, it’s important to recognize that global education is filled with millions of deeply committed teachers successfully influencing the cognitive and emotional growth of millions of students every day. Simply because some aspects of a system can be improved, it does not follow that the system as-a-whole is faulty.
Too often, however, educational critics are quick to use imperfection as a rallying call for complete overhaul. Classrooms getting crowded? Schools have failed us – time for a revolution! Curricula getting outdated? Schools are out of touch – time for a revolution! Pedagogy getting stale? Schools are archaic – time for a revolution!
Let’s ignore for a moment that the education system critics happily malign is by-and-large the very same system that prepared these critics to write successful books and deliver engaging TED Talks – the important thing to recognize is that these revolutionary arguments make the mistake of demanding we use a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
In truth, the good produced by schools far outweighs the bad. Globally, more kids have access to education than ever before; more students are graduating than ever before; gender and racial performance gaps are shrinking; bullying is on the decline; student wellbeing has never before been so widely considered; and (for what it’s worth) standardized test scores have been consistently increasing for two decades.
Schools are succeeding.
With that said, as the world evolves, so too must certain aspects of education to ensure that the greatest number of students undertake the best possible learning. In our estimation, there are 10 pivotal aspects of school that are ready to be evolved, and that (if effectively addressed) have the power to produce revolutionary advances in education without the need for a total system overhaul.
Some of these aspects carry the weight of centuries (the 50-minute class period), while others are relatively recent considerations (evidence-based practice). Some have long been questioned by practitioners (grades), while others are hardly recognizable as being questioned (purpose). Some will no doubt ruffle a few feathers (computers), while others will be welcomed by many with open arms (rewards).
In this book, we will dive deeply into 10 different aspects of school and demonstrate not only why each of these pervasive practices contributes to suboptimal (and potentially harmful) outcomes, but also how each can be tweaked to improve student learning and wellbeing. Importantly, at the end of the book you will find a thorough reference section that can be used to support any argument you wish to dive more deeply into.
We’ll end with a quote from astrophysicist Bernhard Haisch:
“Advances are made by answering questions; discoveries are made by questioning answers.”
With this book, our goal is to pool together research and philosophy in an attempt to generate potential answers. We hope your goal will be to critically question these answers within your unique context.
~ Dr. Jared Cooney Horvath & David Bott