This whole stupid Miss SC incident made my wife and I discuss the education system in general and what we saw as a lot of fluff in the modern set up. Mind you, my wife is a teacher of the arts. She deals with kids all of the time, and she knows they are not challenged. I know kids in the system from K to PhD programs and have teacher friends. The system is broke but we don't know how to fix it or even want to try. First rule: no year round schooling. Second rule: take out courses that should be taught at home: sex ed, conflict resolution, tolerance, whatever. Teaching one group's set of values over another is like teaching religion in school. Les goup work and more individual work. We all know that this only encourages kids to learn quite early to team up with someone smarter and let them do the work. We carved things down to this scrunched system that is a bit more like the Euro-Russian model of schooling. We harken back to the days of yore of the 3 Rs, and god forbid, not everyone gets a star.
School starts at age 7. Yep, age 7. We would standardize the entry age to be "must be age 7 by December 31st of X year". This would prevent situations where kids from NY and kids from Maine are in the same grade but 1 year apart yet they have a birthday on the same calendar date. The education goes from entry age 7 to graduation age of 17. Yes, 10 years of schooling, not the normal 13. Here's where we gain our efficiency:
K-2 is condensed to two school years. Let's face it most of K-2 is socialization, learning basics of reading/writing and addition/subtraction, and finding out who are the really smart/stupid kids. Start doing linguistics tests on the kids to see who is more conducive to learning languages. Linguistics testing is so awesome now they can spot these abilities at an early age.
Grades 3-5 are condensed to 2 years as well. Most of the math kids learn in 4th grade is the same as what they learn in 3rd grade these days, it's just repeated. WTF? Science is still general studies, and now is getting wishy washy with some lame Global Warming preaching inserted. Forget topical stuff, let's stick to the basics of Biology, Chemistry, Geology (no Physics yet). A general language course that introduces other languages should be taught.
Grades 6-8 are full 3 years. Why 3 full years here? Science (rotate: Physics, Biology, Chemistry during a year), Math, Reading/Writing = "English", Foreign Language (each school has 3 languages to choose from), History, Art (rotate: dance/music/paint-draw), Phys Ed. Seven 50 minute periods each day. If a student wishes to specialize in one art form, allowances can be made. Here's the major difference I have with this period of schooling. A lot of schools get out early for sports. Now, I love sports. I played them a lot when in school. Schools should never be going short so sports can be played. This is a growing trend in some states, and it is horribly wrong. I would push the school day out an extra hour to get a full day of 50 minute periods for each subject. This might sound dumb, but with a school year of 180 days, that extra hour each day equates to an extra 4.5 weeks of schooling a year. This means Algebra for all 8th graders, at a slower pace obviously for Math challenged kids. Huge gains.
Grades 9-12 are only 3 years. Forget 4 years of high school. Most of that fourth year is for smart kids to position for college or get college credit w/AP courses, mid-level students to prep for college and take some fun electives, and for dumber students to retake courses so they can graduate. Basic requirements will be for all. No exceptions. Well rounded, but you can focus in what you feel is valuable to you. English would be focused more on the actual content of the class: World Lit, British Lit, US Lit, etc. You must take core 3 English, 3 Math, 2 Science, 2 History, 2 foreign language, 1 Art, 1 Phys Ed (outside sports count towards this), 1 economics. At 8 courses a year, a student could finish in 2 years. Not so fast. The 3rd year is super focus in 1 English, 1 Math and then 2 subjects that they will use to feel out as a major for college (British influence). Students who have already loaded up on History could then flesh out with more history or a possible macroeconomics course. If not contemplating college, well, for whatever they think they could use for the future. I would integrate 3rd years not thinking about college with the local tech colleges, nursing schools, and community colleges in the area. Like the junior high level, add an extra hour to each school day.
It sounds quite odd and quite expensive. Think back to my beginning statement: 10 years instead of the classic 13. The money not spent on 3 years worth of teachers is redirected to spend on the different types of resources needed at each level. Think of the foreign language majors who could proudly tell their parents they have a job and did not waste their folks' money for college. This is 10 years worth of all levels fo government funding redirected into fields that could use more focus like foreign languages or more effective teaching of sciences and math. My thought is that you'd see an increase in spending on foreign language education, and need to spend more money to lure better math and science teachers. Would this ever pass teachers' unions? No f-ing way unless you could show them that the total teacher head count remained the same. Still it is a dream.
Now with the 17 year olds out on the open market where would they go... Ah yes, part 2 of my program, the '2 years to serve the country' idea. This has been put forth by much brighter people than me as well as myself at different functions. If a student wants to go to college, nursing, tech, maritime school, they apply. If accepted, they can go right off the bat or defer for 2 years. When a student graduates at age 17, they would then have the choice of entering any field of service for their country for 2 years: Americorps (if it still exists), Peace Corps, the Military (must be 18 to actively serve after basic training), border patrol, Airport Security. Pay them very low, like we shamefully pay our current military personnel. The group would also receive grant money for college education if they choose to go to school. After 2 years, they could continue to serve or go to college. What happens if they chose to go to colege first? Well then they have to serve 4 years for their country. This service would then wipe off loans just as the service first would have provided grants. Grants or student debt forgiveness is tied to how well they do at their volunteer duties.
What I envision is a nation where students are challenged before they get to college. What I envision is a nation of kids learning that the civic duty can be as rewarding, if not more than monetary gain. What I envision is a group of college students who go to college with a much better idea of what they want to study and why they want to go to college. What I envision is a nation of students and families taking control of their education and doing what they want to do and learn what they want to learn. What I envision are students who find something to do after college that would be a calling. What if we could find a great future border patrol thinker-czar through this system? What if we could find airport security people scared for their job ratings and doing their job instead of treating you like shit and being condescending assholes? What if we sent young representatives out to other nations to help them so they had a positive mental reminder of the USA instead of a negative (and sometimes false) reminder? I think this would make a stronger and healthier USA.