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The Double Edged Sword of Education

There are two basic parts to education. First you learn something then you do something with it. Educational institutions are good at focusing on the teaching aspect. They teach tons of math, English, social studies, history and science for the purpose of student learning. There isn’t always, however, the correlation made concerning how to do something with the education received. Sure, students get to use the knowledge once they get that attractive internship or graduate from college but that is four, five, six and in some cases eight years off. This might not work that well with this generation of make- it- happen -for –me now students. The current philosophy is learn it now, do it now. This is even a branded thought process among business learning. Explosive websites like and , allow a person to  learn a piece of software in one hour or less are classic examples of quick learning in our society. Thus, education as a whole must follow suit. Many career centers, technical centers and vocational centers provide the “do something with it” approach. However, the core subjects are not infused into the problems. On top of this they are electives, which gives students the choice of not participating. Also, most of these educational areas begin with the eleventh or twelfth grade. This is leaving the students out of hands-on learning before their junior or senior year in high school. A recent study by Harvard entitled “Pathways To Prosperity“, gives an in-depth glimpse of the changes that must take place.

The school system needs to go through a structural change, a rerouting if you will. It starts with a question. Why are we educating students? The answer typically is to produce valuable members of society. The key word within this answer is “valuable.” This is the key function of education: to provide value; to increase value; to multiply value and even to recreate value in students. The more value added to the knowledge base of the student, the greater the impact within the society. One proven method that makes our society move forward is industry. We can have a room full of idealists, but still someone has to pay the rent or mortgage. We can have street peddlers, but someone still has to have money to toss into their cups. We can even have people who decide not to contribute at all and live off of the welfare system, but that pool of money is still generated through taxes paid for by the working people. So, industry could become the key ingredient to transition the structure of education. This process can begin not in high school, middle school or even elementary, but in preschool, the nursery or at home.

There are two basic core changes. Aligning students to particular industries early and teaching the standard core subjects within that selected industry. The defining industries are as follows: Science focused, Art focused, Art/Technical focused, Technical focused and Social Focused. These areas encompass all jobs within our society, both present and future. This should begin early around the preschool or nursery school period. To our benefit this already happens with children experiencing, playing with and learning from products which are created by industry. We just need to take a few more steps showing how that plastic block comes from a mold, how that mold was measured and crafted, what type of measuring device was used, how it was crafted and where the idea originated. It can be assumed that preschool and nursery school children will have a hard time at the measuring. But it helps them to understand what is big, bigger and biggest. Thinking of the idea is also a stretch for young children, but it helps to plant the necessary skills needed for critical thinking. Children are selected for a certain type of industry based on their strengths. As the child grows and their strengths and even interests change, so too can their selected category.

This method is applicable to a charter school versus the general city public school system. Dr. Michelle Rhee made some great strides with the Washington D.C. School District. Even so, but some of her innovative methods were opposed by the Teacher’s Union. She was a strong advocate for compensating teachers according to their performance in the classroom as evidenced by stronger student academic performance, increased standardized test scores and to recruit and retain better teachers. Also, this type of method is difficult for some teachers and administrators to handle the pressure of a different approach to compensation for education. Jay Kernis reported for Rock Center how principals and teachers in Atlanta, Georgia, held parties to change student’s grades on the standardized tests. The incentivized approach will demand a different type of teaching, administration and a different type of teacher. This is also happening in the Twin Cities in Minnesota, where charter students are consistently underperforming. Administration and Staff, who understand the how to of industry, can connect directly to core subjects and could effectively accomplish this task. Pedagogy, our methods for teaching, will have to change, curriculum construction will have to change and the delivery of information will have to change. This will also have a lasting effect on students from lower socioeconomic levels, as the Charlotte Observer concluded in a recent review. If students are taught a tangible learning model, that they can attain industry with, perhaps students in all economic levels will succeed. A sword can have two sides, both are razor sharp. One side is for learning something and the other side is to do something with it.

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Brian Southers

About Brian Southers

Brian Southers is about developing and implementing strategies that provide social change. Tackle problems from a human perspective.

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