Thursday, April 01, 2010

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Numbers Sixty-One And Sixty-Two and Sixty-Three

61. Longer school days.

62. Longer school years.

63. Pay teachers a lot more.

The Boy will hate me for the first two of these -- but he's graduating high school in June, so by the time the world adopts these solutions (about July, '010, I figure) he'll be on his own anyway.

Putting students in school longer during the day, and for more of the year, helps everyone -- teachers, students, parents. Here's how I'd shape up the day:

7:30 - 8:00 a.m.: Free period/study time/students meet with counselors & administrators.
8:00-12:00: Academic Classes.
12:00-1:30: Free period/study time/students meet with counselors & administrators.
1:30-3:00: Academic Classes.
3:00-5:00: Mandatory Athletic/Artistic Time. (Football, or art class, or band, etc.)

That kind of day means that parents would not, after preschool, have to worry about daycare or babysitting, for the most part (which, by the way, frees up money parents would otherwise spend on daycare, money that can be used to pay increased costs of more school time.) It also builds an ease-in period into the morning and breaks up academic subjects, while having supervised homework time and time to meet with counselors.

It then shifts the extracurriculars and nonacademic classes to after school, and makes participation in something mandatory. Why should all kids have to take gym class? Or music class? And why should kids who are on the football team be in gym class, as well?

Then, the longer school year should be 11 weeks on, 2 weeks off, year-round. Doing that would guarantee that there is no significant gap in education. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell posited credibly that a big problem with education is that during the no-reason-for-it summer break, some kids go on learning, as their parents have time to read to them and take them on trips or they go to camp or what-have-you, while other students essentially freeze in place as their parents can't afford those things -- creating an education gap.

Year-round school eliminates that, and eliminates the "wasted days" before vacation. Ask any person who's willing to be honest, and they'll tell you that the last 1-2 days before any significant time off (Christmas and summer break) are largely wasted: students are too excited about the break to pay attention, so no learning occurs. By eliminating those and making 2-week breaks a regular thing eliminates that "excitement gap" in learning.

By making teachers go year-round, too, society will realize that teachers really do work, and start actually paying them more. Which is important, and that's why it's number 63.

When you make the pay low for a position that requires skill, you will attract two kinds of people to it: People who are really amazingly dedicated to that thing, and people who can't do anything else and are bad at what they do.

Both those kinds of people will get hired for low-paying, unpopular jobs, because the jobs are low-paying and unpopular -- so the employers are desperate and have to fill spots.

So teachers fall into one of two groups: They're either incredibly dedicated people, or incompetent slackers.

Now, ask yourself this: Which kind of people are more numerous in the world, the amazingly dedicated, or the incompetent?

What we're doing by paying teachers too little is forcing dedicated people who need money to go into something else, and leaving the teaching to the (rare) amazingly dedicated person and the (all-too-common) incompetent slacker.

Prior entries:

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

Claudius wanted to be the first man to reach the stars... but it was murder to get there. Read
Eclipse, the haunting sci-fi book from Briane Pagel. Available at and on your Kindle.


1 comment:

[mr joan croft] said...

Reading this entry made me gain a little hope in humanity because prior to it, I thought everyone was incompetent. Bitter, I know; but I live in a city full of students and inept people. Anywho, we could probably take a cue from the Japanese and keep kids in school longer.
In the case of teachers, my mother is one and she's exhausted by the bureaucracy surrounded by the profession. She simply loves teaching kids, but either the budget isn't around for it or her superiors are too political (just in a sense of getting ahead at any cost, not red/blue/left/right/whatever) to care.
I can only hope more people will open their eyes and realize they can make changes to things they disagree with. Apathy tends to run all too rampant.