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an education to di for
by steve peha (@stevepeha)
7.31.09
pop culture


It is a source of great pain and embarrassment to many of us when we confront the current state of public education. When every 26 seconds a child drops out of high school, leaving us with many a wayward Mary or Jonathan, swift action must be taken for it may be said that a great iniquity befalls us all and that even the most savage and inhuman breast is moved to doleful contemplation.

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the schemes of past and present policymakers, I have often found their ideas grossly mistaken in their assumptions, hopelessly flawed in their executions, or deeply troubling in their intent. It is the most caustic of realities to say that all past attempts to solve this problem have failed and that there is, at present, no large scale effort in existence that would rightly cause even the most optimistic among us to hold out hope for improvement.

I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection, by way of a modest proposal, and discuss herein a solution to the matter at hand such that all children may gain the educational birthright to which they are entitled, and those adults who provide for their intellectual nourishment shall have adequate means to acquit themselves appropriately in the execution of their offices.

Let it be stated with confidence that each of us agrees with the notion that upon reaching the age of majority, a percentage of American youth nearing the theoretical maximum should find themselves well-prepared for matters of employment, citizenship, or such additional education and training as they might endeavor to explore beyond the grade of twelve; and, therefore, rather than being a charge upon their parents, their community, or their government, would instead become contributors to future generations and the greater good.

I will grant you there are those who will contend most vociferously that our schools cannot mend what our society has torn asunder, and that these issues are best resolved through such means as market forces, Social Darwinism, Theories of Creative Destruction, Strange Attractors, or the cruel whim of happenstance. But let them not gainsay the argument upon which my thesis rests without granting me at least that modicum of respect which I (as a successful practitioner of the learning arts for more than a decade, have accrued through diligent exercise of my God-given talents and the accumulation of many hours spent in study and observation) am therefore surely due.

Short of plucking babes from their mothers breasts, an act of expedience surpassed only by its abject insensitivity and logistical concerns of Haliburtonesque dimensions, we must currently postpone formal tutelage until the age of four or five, a significant length of time when more advantaged youth are likely to experience accelerated intellectual growth relative to their less-advantaged peers. But current scientific achievement, bolstered by recent revolutions in brain research, child psychology, and human factors makes realizing success for all less a matter of addressing societal inequities and more a matter of modifying our present methods of instruction.

To put it plainly, todays teaching is manifestly inefficient. Too many teachers spend too many hours working for too little learning, and the general public invests too many resources relative to the results it receives. Fortunately, a significantly improved approach is available to us, one that is easily implemented, readily scaleable, and highly consistent with current trends in standards-based education.

Todays curriculum, contained as it is primarily in books and other printed media, would be most efficiently taught to hungry young minds through the instructional method of Direct Ingestion, or DI as it is commonly known. In morning classes, DI lessons might be mixed with cereals, hot or cold, pop tarts, toaster strudel, or breakfast bars to improve their consumption. (Younger children may prefer paste.) At lunch, and later in the afternoon, peanut butter and jelly or bologna may suffice as an instructional amuse bouche.

As one could scarcely imagine a more efficient way to deliver standards-based curriculum -- simply tear and serve -- DI would save billions of dollars per year. Much of the work in todays classrooms could be dispatched by playground attendants, bus drivers, stay-at-home moms, dog walkers, or perhaps even the homeless -- all making far less money than their current fully certified instructional counterparts. In the near future, it is likely that computer-automated systems could be developed. Someday, DI may even allow us to deliver instruction directly to a students home through the US Postal Service or IP-enabled printers using nutritious soy-based inks.

DI would help us make great strides toward closing the Achievement Gap. For those less fortunate students, slightly greater degrees of consumption each day could be easily calculated and administered. Instruction could be fully differentiated to serve those in need of remediation and gifted students as well; its simply a matter of dietary control. With this newfound ease of differentiation, class sizes could be greatly expanded by moving students to school lunchrooms and serving hundreds at a time.

Finally, DI affords the ultimate in data-driven practice. Formative assessments are easily conducted with simple weigh-ins while yearly summative assessments could be more precisely administered through urinalysis or blood tests. Bringing true science to the measurement of academic performance in this fashion will do away with such currently controversial topics as Adequate Yearly Progress, Growth Models, Cut Scores, Confidence Intervals, Minimum Subgroup Size, etc. Best of all, what now takes a large company months to report could be gathered by a school nurse in mere days or weeks (minor encroachments on the 4th Amendment notwithstanding).

I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavoring to promote this uniquely promising approach, having no other motive than the public good of my country, the advancement of the teaching trade, and the provision of a more promising future for young adults. I am not a teacher, nor am I a commercial publisher of educational materials; I stand to benefit in this no more than any other concerned citizen who would take pride and pleasure in his nations educational success. I hereby urge all Americans to consider the model I have herein averred and to advocate on its behalf to their sworn representatives at local, state, and national levels. Together, we can, with great dispatch, and all deliberate speed, replace our attempts to paper over the weaknesses of our education system and prepare our high school students for life, work, and the college-ruled world of learning that is their rightful destiny.



ABOUT STEVE PEHA

Steve Peha is the Founder of Teaching That Makes Sense (www.ttms.org), an education consulting organization specializing in literacy, strategy, and technology within the K-12 sector. He lives in Carrboro, NC with his wife Margot Lester, the most incredibly fantastic, amazingly wonderful, and supremely superlative human being he has ever known -- and their two dogs, Mookie and Marvin.

more about steve peha




COMMENTS

russ carr
7.9.09 @ 3:15p

The drawback of the DI technique is the immense strain it would have on the nation's wastewater reclamation systems, though in the short term it would likely have positive ramifications for plumbers and purveyors of liquid drain cleaners. Rapidly increasing the amount of fiber in your diet -- especially during "cramming" sessions -- can also lead to increased flatulence, which in turn releases more methane into the air, a direct threat to our atmosphere and environment.

A greener alternative might be the Total Immersion (TI) system, recently considered for adoption here in Missouri. Students attend "classes" at their local municipality (or county, etc.) swimming pool during what was once that facility's "off-season" (roughly Labor Day through Memorial Day) and join their classmates in active play in a kid-friendly slurry made of chlorinated water and pulped textbooks (curricula). Periodically during the academic year, the school district simply dredges the pool, sending the slurry off to continue the recycling process, and refilling the pool with new educational content.

Students in the TI program have the advantage of a very eclectic curriculum, which may span everything from primary to higher education levels, depending on which textbooks are currently being pulped. Students with learning challenges may progress at their own comfort level by remaining in the "shallow" end.

School districts in municipalities without swimming facilities may distribute curricula in a concentrated form, made by dehydrating the pulp and then shredding it into a powder-like consistency. Parents/guardians may pick up their child(ren)'s curricula from the District office and add it to bathwater. Aluminum sieves are available for parents/guardians to reclaim content post-immersion, so that it, too, may be recycled.

steve peha
7.9.09 @ 4:23p

I think we should send both your idea and mine to Arne Duncan. Maybe he'll give us jobs in his office.

russ carr
7.10.09 @ 2:08p

Also, I am amused by the juxtaposition of "Jonathan" and "swift" -- whether intentional or not.

steve peha
7.10.09 @ 2:21p

Thanks for noticing. It was intentional. I found that many readers had an inkling that this was based on a famous document but couldn't put their finger on which one. So I tried to work in both "jonathan swift" and "a modest proposal" into the text.

adam kraemer
7.31.09 @ 10:08a

I absolutely caught both of them. Nice job.

steve peha
7.31.09 @ 11:27a

Thanks, Adam.

sandra thompson
8.1.09 @ 9:01a

Most clever. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

steve peha
8.1.09 @ 2:22p

Thank you, Sandra.



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