In the previous article, I proposed a working definition of education as 'the acquisition of knowledge'. We can also state that an education system is the provision of the tools and structure required to provide this acquisition of knowledge. How ironic is it then that a certain group, in this case the govt group, claims 'righteous monopoly' over the delivery of education services using fatally flawed one size fits all models as its basic overall strategy?
A thought experiment, and once again through the dual lens of never-say-never/always-outliers: throw everything away for second, past and present, wipe the brain slate clean, shake the etch-a-sketch. Now, allow in a few observations of others that you've made over your lifetime with regards to humans and human behaviour. We're not always aware of these observations having been made so it might take a minute or two to 'get in the zone'. No scientific method here, no by the book justification, just you, your experiences, your observations.
OK, now, based on this reflection, if you were asked to put down a few summary observations about humans in general, would you ever have 'one size fits all' on your list…anywhere? For those who spend extended time around children or in social settings, particularly workplaces: from an individual learning point of view, the understanding of knowledge by an individual, would you ever have 'one size fits all' on your list…anywhere?
From personal experience I know two related professions that would confidently and loudly proclaim the fallacy of one size fits all and that is teachers 'n trainers of any discipline.
A furthering of this silliness and irony is found in standardized testing, EQAO in Ontario, a one size fits all poster child. This is such a silly notion that I can only conclude it's a govt group crony pork position put forth by bean counters and those in charge of govt group PR optics. It has very little to do with the education of children/youth in the province, their claimed prime objective. How do we demand our rightful refund?
I heard a story once of a primary student who had difficulty remembering their house number, phone number - even printing their name could prove challenging. They had great difficulty reading and math was also proving to be an steeply uphill battle. But ask this student anything about grapes and wine, an integral and long standing part of their local culture and economy, and they were all over it like a boss. Given what we see and have seen with regards to education system(s), one size fits all included, what's your outcome wager: a budding vintner/vineyard entrepreneur pursuing a passion or just another kid with unique needs dragged along by the system until cut loose when older and left to pursue something less than their potential…or worse?
The one size fits all educational fallacy should alone be enough justify a formal dismantle of state education systems. There is no way a govt can effectively deliver the individualist educational needs that a population requires. Hell, virtually impossible to even identify them all let alone deliver.
A caveat worth exploring: specific task training is an area where some success with a one size fits all approach may be realized simply due to the concentration of shared traits; but even that is limited in scope and possibility. For example: presumably, those engaged in training on a specific task not considered entry level/general labour have a certain basic knowledge and skill-set under their respective belts already. I highly doubt that those receiving training in the flight and operation of a commercial airliner have had no prior flight training/experience. The trainer can therefore use some one size fits all methods due to this group already having a certain level of common knowledge of the topic at hand. Use of short forms and jargon might be an example or a practical vs theoretical approach another.
Essentially, the only chance the one size fits all style has for any hope of success is when used in very small groups formed on the basis of their current common knowledge, skill-set and ability…I think we can say with confidence approaching absolute that this is far from reflective of the average school population today or any day.
As is with virtually everything 'us', teaching is IMHO also on a spectrum, one containing three main 'types' with the usual many shades in between:
[Note: I use 'babysitter' in reference to the maturity, skill-set and effort required for successful completion of this task. It is used for categorization and ranking purposes and not intended to be demeaning in any fashion.]
Babysitter | Teacher | Educator
To give this some context, babysitter is the individual who will do what they consider their best to ensure that no harm comes to the children/youth in their charge. As for the goal of helping with the acquisition of knowledge however, very basic and this group will often do the absolute bare minimum while expending the bare minimum of effort. Misplaced passion: instead of the education of future generations being the passion, it's summers off and great benefit packages.
At the other end is the Educator, intentionally capitalized with the intent of indicating the respect I hold for this group; to me it's top tier. These folks are the ones who take every opportunity they can to improve their own skill-set while at the same time continuously challenge their charges to think for themselves, critically, to question instead of accept blindly, to let the children/youth/adults guide the learning as much as is responsibly possible. Educators are adept at identifying and utilizing learning opportunities as they arise, not just those that are planned. Educators try hard to throw the traditional memorize-regurgitate-moveon education method into the garbage bin where it belongs.
Summarily: teaching how to think in general but also specifically in a manner that is beneficial and positive to the individual and subsequently to those around them. Compare to cults which would be the opposite end of the spectrum.
An important note here: our current education system employs many different job descriptions, with many of those having a direct impact on the learning process of chitlens. In my world, an EA for example can merit the same professional respect as a teacher with regards being Educators. In other words, an EA can be a member of the same Educator club as the teacher proper.]
Ontario focused and from a cost/benefit point of view, we have another systemic problem here as all three types receive similar remuneration. Additional education/training can and does influence remuneration rates but for the purposes of this point the differences are not significant enough to change anything so they're not necessary to include.
Any education delivery check and balance system(s) are far removed from those paying the bill, taxpayers, resulting in those in teacher roles acting like babysitters for example. These folks are putting in the effort a babysitter would while receiving compensation close to or equiv to someone who is putting in the Educator effort.
This concept is not by any means limited to education, state or otherwise; it can be seen in a vast number of social situations and settings, commercial or otherwise. In the case of most state run systems of any makeup, it can very difficult (read: virtually impossible) to address this problem. The motivation is just not there for most: financially they don't perceive their cash or a$$ on the line so there is no real downside.
Many supervisors, (vice)principals in the education system, are the same way so focus leans towards their personal achievement instead of delivery excellence. From the perspective of the Educator, this issue can prove quite disheartening and deflating resulting in, despite their best efforts, the Educator unconsciously adopting the actions and attitudes of the babysitter, in other words, balancing out at the lowest common denominator or leaving education altogether. Either way, a super-duper bad thing.
So there we have another strike that should also be enough to put rest to the notion of state run education but there's more, the gift that keeps on giving. Above I talk about one size fits all. In that context is only the first side, that is, the actual delivery mechanics of knowledge. The other side of the one size fits all coin is what in fact should be delivered. This side is also a complete fail and non starter as implemented by state run education.
In part #3, I'll explore both a deeper look at the mechanics as well as problems with curriculum and reporting.
Foundations: Education Part #1 - What Is Education, Why Should We Care?