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Bill Gates Proclaims US High Schools Obsolete 971

bryan sent us a story about Bill Gates' take on US High Schools. He says 'America's high schools are obsolete. By obsolete, I don't just mean that they're broken, flawed or underfunded, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean our high schools even when they're working as designed cannot teach all our students what they need to know today.'"
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Bill Gates Proclaims US High Schools Obsolete

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:46PM (#11794382)
    CmdrTaco went to high school and he still can't even edit Slashdot properly.
    • by darkmeridian ( 119044 ) <william@chuang.gmail@com> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:17PM (#11794657) Homepage

      CmdrTaco went to high school and he still can't even edit Slashdot properly.

      That's because he's overqualified now.

    • Gates is absolutely right. I found that out in my first college year.
      • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @07:55PM (#11797804)
        "Gates is absolutely right. I found that out in my first college year."

        I went through a similar thing myself, but I have one thing to amend Gates' assertion about. high schools aren't obsolete, schools are obsolete, but it's because of money.

        The district that I work for splits elementary kids into three groups, with two of these groups being the majority. These are normal learners, slow learners, and gifted learners. Most of the kids are in the normal category, a measurable chunk are in the slow category, and a very small number are in the gifted category. Schools are not supposed to have more than 9% of their students in special education. They're probably not supposed to have more than that in the gifted programs either. This means that they're supposed to have at least 82% of students in common curriculum, even if the student excels beyond the class or struggles, but not struggles to the point of qualifying for intervention. This leaves kids at both ends of the spectrum of normal not getting the education that they are truly capable of.

        If I were the all-powerful person in charge of everything, I'd split groups up a lot more distinctly, and by subject. I'd have four or five levels, with the current normal range being three distinct levels. There would be extremely bright, "I have to learn this for one day and then I have it down pat" kids, "Give me a compressed unit and I'll have it perfect" kids, "Teach me at the previous normal pace and I'll have it" kids, "Give it to me with more basics and combine it with other exercises to reinforce it" kids, and "I need special assistance because I'm not able to keep up" kids. Broken down by subject, a student would be kept in with a smaller peer group for each subject, and the pace of learning could let the student reach to their potential, rather than being held back because they're just sitting there.

        This costs money. This requires home support. Where I work, both are strongly lacking. We get $5,600 per kid per year to teach them, and that has to pay for everything from the classroom teacher to the new tires for the lawnmower.
  • I agree! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nuclear305 ( 674185 ) * on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:47PM (#11794392)
    Hey for once Bill Gates and I actually agree. HS was fun and I did enjoy a select few classes but for the most part everything else was a waste of time generally designed to prepare students for the years ahead. Not a bad idea in theory, but for those who are already prepared and are actually interested in learning...HS life can be somewhat lacking.

    In my opinion college was even worse. Here I am paying thousands of dollars per semester for the same "I'm a kid, beat on me until I can handle Real Life." stuff. I loaded up 18 credits every semester like an eager naive person only to discover 3 (1 class) of those 18 had any relevance whatsoever to my area of specialization. Once in a while another class would act as a supporting class, but more often than not the rest was just filler designed to keep me busy for a few hours every day. The result? After about 3 years of this I was sick of it...I could barely stomach a fourth. I was tired of seeing my money--earned by working--being spent on some idiot teaching an Economics class who readily admit his sole purpose at that university was to make our lives as difficult as possible and possibly actually teach something relevant to the course.

    Looking back, I still feel it was a total waste of money. It made my life so miserable I didn't even have time to stop and enjoy the "college life" that many say makes it all worthwhile. It's my money, I should be able to spend it as I please...not to have someone tell me that I have to waste it on filler courses rather than something of actual use and interest to me.

    In the end? I discovered I enjoyed the life of employment much more. All those years of having some teacher/professor telling me how hard life is and how clueless and naive all us students were. Truth be told, I learned most of what I use in the workplace either on the job or on my own. Not to mention I was no longer paying my boss to allow me the privilege to work--I was finally being paid to be there!
    • Re:I agree! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wheelbarrow ( 811145 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:03PM (#11794532)
      I agree somewhat but we must tread carefully if we are going to overhaul things. Your main point seems to be an objection to any classes that were not 'relevant' to your area of specialization. I'll admit that there were classes that I hated because I was not interested in the topic and I objected to surrendering my time and energy to some idiot professor who could demand work from a captive audience. However, some of my fondest memories are of general education classes in literature, philosophy, and history.

      There is a danger that people will miss these useful general ed classes if we track kids into a specialty too early. I have a friend who was tracked into math and computer science in the British education system. From age 16 onwards he never took any class that was not 'relavant' to specialized match and computer science. He missed all of those experiences I loved in taking some general ed as a more mature 21 or 22 year old. I also think it is limiting and mistaken to track kids too early because a lot of kids simply are not mature enough to choose a track when they are still teenagers. I was a late bloomer. I did not choose computer science until I was 20. If I was too deeply tracked at 16 I would have been wrong and miserable.

      Our education system must produce thoughtful and contemplative adults. I think there are a lot of people that just want universities to crank out trained worker bees at age 22.
      • Re:I agree! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nuclear305 ( 674185 ) *
        "I'll admit that there were classes that I hated because I was not interested in the topic and I objected to surrendering my time and energy to some idiot professor who could demand work from a captive audience. However, some of my fondest memories are of general education classes in literature, philosophy, and history."

        I also agree here, I'm not necessarily against irrelevant courses...the problem here was that more often than not even those teaching the classes took the mentality that what they were tea
      • Re:I agree! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Coryoth ( 254751 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:29PM (#11794769) Homepage Journal
        I think there are a lot of people that just want universities to crank out trained worker bees at age 22.

        I'm rather troubled by that attitude here on Slashdot - there seem to be many many people who view a degree as pointless unless it fast tracks you to a job. There seem to be many people who view High School and University as solely vocational training, and judge the success or failure of those institutions solely by how successfuly they tain you to do a job.

        Whatever happened to learning for learning's sake? What ever happened to just expanding your own mind, and your own understanding of the world? That was originally the role of Universities - a place to go and learn. The things you learned at University didn't used to have to have any relevance to practical life, or employment; It used to be acceptable to just go and learn something simply because you wanted to know about it.

        Vocational training used to come via apprenticeships, community colleges, polytechnics, trade schools - whatever you want to call them - and they did a far etter job of it than Universities do now because they were unashamedly about vocational training, with no delusions of grandeur, no requirement for research. Their goal was to teach people how to do a job, and how to do it well.

        We now exist in a situation where the community colleges and polytechs have aspirations to be universities, and the universities are now expected to be little more than trade schools. Great; now everything sucks!

        Worse still, however, is the core change in attitude: now learning is all about fnding a job. Learning is all about your vocation, and not about merely wanting to know. People who wish to know more about the world, simply to know more about the world are people who will always seek out new information, and question existing information. People who don't think that way are precisely those who are inclined to simply believe whatever their told without question. How is it that our society is trending toward the latter cases?

        • Re:I agree! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Panaflex ( 13191 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {ognidlaivivnoc}> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:56PM (#11794954)
          I believe the problem is that *everyone* should have the chance to go to college, but that those who are not interrested should still be able to find gainful employment through a vocation.

          The University, by and large, has suffered both in academic excellence and rigour because of this idiotic idea that everybody should go to college.

          I used to think it was hugely unfair, that in Germany students are separated into high and low schools at the fifth grade (or so). After years of school myself, and 9 years in the IT field it is apparent that many people are not going for their dream job out of the fear living a substandard existance on minimum wage.

          The truth be told, there are more millionaire plumbers than there are Computer Scientists.

          How many people love their jobs? The inverted order of society to produce lawyers, computer specialists, doctors, et cetera has created a population of dissatisfied people. Additionally, those who are relegated to "lower ranks" in society feel cheated or failure simply because they didn't accomplish the "gold standard."

          If we're serious about improving education I really think that the child's interrest should dictate their career path. The education system should grow around this. Parents should support and challenge their children to achieve their goals.

        • by qbzzt ( 11136 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:59PM (#11794971)

          I'm rather troubled by that attitude here on Slashdot - there seem to be many many people who view a degree as pointless unless it fast tracks you to a job. There seem to be many people who view High School and University as solely vocational training, and judge the success or failure of those institutions solely by how successfuly they tain you to do a job.

          When you're eighteen, if you are at all serious about living your own life, you need vocational training. Learning of learning's sake is great, but you won't have the spare time to learn in the rest of your life if you're struggling to make ends meet.

          Universities used to be learning for learning sake when they were mostly populated by the children of the rich and rich, who did not expect to have to work for a living.

          • Ok, I haven't even read the other sibling posts, but I don't think I'll find one that I agree with more, or that is more personally relevant.

            In high school I read lots of science and technical books and whatnot- it was obviously what I was good at.

            I did ok in AP courses, and used them to place out of as many "fluff" courses in college as possible.

            I ended up with a masters in EE, the whole time minimizng the amount of time spent toward courses that didn't count toward my major. There were exceptions, an
            • There were two types of people who were enjoying their youth: the types who couldn't compete and knew it, and the types who didn't need to compete, and knew it (above average family finances would provide enough of a cushion for them). This is a lot of the people, mind you.

              Then there are people like me, who could compete, and then realized that they could go to school for knowledge, and got sidetracked because it is more interesting than a trade. Competition is overrated, I will never sacrafice my integr
        • Re:I agree! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Leo McGarry ( 843676 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:00PM (#11794978)
          I don't think of it as learning for learning's sake, though I think that's probably a valid point of view. I look at it as learning so you can be smart.

          Three key premises here. Premise number one: You are not smart enough. There's so much to know, so much to understand, so many ideas to which you've never been exposed. You are not smart enough yet.

          Premise number two: The only way to become smart is to learn things.

          Premise number three: The best way to learn things is to be taught.

          Too many kids today go to school with the attitude that they want to study X so they can become a professional Y. That's a mistake. They need to go to school so that they can become smart, so that they can subsequently become a professional whatever they want.

          A smart person should have a favorite poem. A smart person should be able to cook a gourmet meal. A smart person should be able to change his own oil. A smart person should be able to balance his check book. A smart person should be able to understand the law. A smart person should be able to discuss politics. A smart person should be able to appreciate music and art. A smart person should be able to juggle.

          It's bad when somebody focuses on one area of study to the exclusion of all others. It's worse when somebody who has become expert in one particular discipline mistakenly thinks he's now smart. Somebody who knows everything there is to know about programming a computer but who is ignorant of poetry or biology or politics isn't smart. At best, he could be described as a sort of self-induced idiot savant.
          • Re:I agree! (Score:5, Interesting)

            by MultiModeRb87 ( 804979 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @03:19PM (#11795475)
            A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.

            Specialization is for insects.

            Robert Heinlein, The Notebooks of Lazarus Long
            • from Buckminster Fuller, in 1972:

              I think universities are completely obsolete. I think they're having these troubles because they're supposed to be eliminated. There's very little that goes on at a university that can't be done better otherwise. The biggest raison d'être for the present system is the security of the professor. He's got tenure. Has anybody else got tenure? Hell, no. Those tenure boys are really a shame; they're so businesslike, they really look out for themselves.
          • Re:I agree! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @04:37PM (#11795984) Homepage
            I can't tell you the number of times I've spoken to a programmer who needed to know a bit of economics, or a designer who desperately needed a bit of literary theory, or an artist who needed a clue about how computers function.

            If you're going to be a doctor, that's fine, go be a doctor. But part of being a doctor is working with computer equipment, so that should be part of your training. And you're going to need economics to understand the functioning of HMO's. And theater to improve your bedside manner. And a good grounding in literature to get through the drama of it all.

            The same can be said for pretty much any profession. I would say that too many kids go to school with the attitude that to become a professional Y they just need to study X. Profession Y is not a known, completely quantized thing, and to be a good professional Y first you need to be good at being a human being.

            In other words, chances are if you hated something in college, that's exactly the thing you should study. Whatever it is, it's going to bite you in the tail down the road if you don't master it now.

        • by iONiUM ( 530420 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:19PM (#11795095) Journal
          Are different. I've seen it through all my friends, and most people who are +/- 5 years of my age (22). The fact is, we love learning. But we love learning about different things, things we like, stupid things.. Sometimes I sit around and read about something stupid (N. Korea one day) for a solid 8 hours for no reason at all. University's environment, and i hear this over and over, is just stifling to creativity. You have to do what they say, you have to do a crapload of work in a very specific area (your major), and you just don't have time to sit in a library or on the internet and learn about random things.

          So why do we rush through uni just for a degree? To get a decent paying job that gives us enough free time to do what we want. That's why university sucks, that's why we hate it but need it, that's why everyone bad mouths it. I realize i made some generalizations, so forgive me, i'm just going by what i've seen.
          • by Coryoth ( 254751 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @04:49PM (#11796088) Homepage Journal
            How much of the constraints in University are about providing pieces of paper and proof of ability for purely vocational purposes though? I mean really, all a University is doing is offering a variety of courses that you can choose to do if you find them interesting. The whole deal with the degree, associated course requirements, the examinations and assessments etc. is all largely about providing prospective employers with a nice checklist. If universities managed to free themselves of their vocational training aspects a little more I think you would find them much more to you liking.

            A place where you can go: to be with other people interested in learning; to have access to a wide variety and depth of material (the internet, for all its breadth, fails to offer equivalent depth in any subject to that of a good university library); a place where people with knowledge, experience and interest (their prime job is purely research) provide courses in subjects.

            There is nothing wrong with trade schools when you simply want to learn a trade, or how to do a job, and those qualifications should not be looked down on as (for some reason) they are now. That shouldn't stop a person from also wanting to attend an institution that is solely about learning, and not interested in vocations etc. That is part of the current issue with Universities.

        • Re:I agree! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by justin12345 ( 846440 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @03:12PM (#11795438)
          "Whatever happened to learning for learning's sake? What ever happened to just expanding your own mind, and your own understanding of the world? That was originally the role of Universities - a place to go and learn."

          Probably died off right about the time tuition began increasing at several times the inflation rate. Education in the US now has to be viewed as a financial investment, and so there really isn't any room for it if it doesn't produce a financial return.

          I graduate in 2002. I had a ton of scholarship, but I still graduated with about $16,000 in dept. This wouldn't be unreasonable if it wasn't for the fact that I was studying fine art; my roommate was $50,000 under when he graduated and his was the more typical case. I could afford a frivolous education because I received some of the most prestigious scholarships offered, one which was actually awarded by President Clinton in person. 99.999% of the population cannot receive such treatment under our current system.

          My example was about art, but it also applies to english, history, philosophy, etc. If we continue in this fashion, I firmly believe that our culture will suffer (if it hasn't already). I don't know if socialized education is the answer or not, but I think its something the country should consider.
        • Re:I agree! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Facekhan ( 445017 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @04:07PM (#11795809)
          Learning for learning's sake?

          If I wanted to do that then I would probably just read a book. Very few subjects require formal instruction spread over a semester or a year or several years. Formal education was not created for the person who wants to learn it was created for the person who is to be made to learn.

          A motivated individual could probably go through all basic math from arithmetic to algebra 2 and geometry in a couple of months a couple hours per day. Your basic average kid could do it. It has been done. As for writing and reading, I think people would read a lot more if they were not forced to read when they did not want to or were too young to appreciate it or did not like the book. Writing ability comes from having read a lot. If you read a lot you will be able to write. Schools mess that up too. Most people, including many highschool teachers could not compose an essay that would pass muster in a college freshman's composition course. The reason is that the school system teaches one completely nonsensical method of writing and then a year later they learn another rigid method they learn to hate and another and another until the thought of writing an essay or even a paragraph makes them cringe. College composition is simple. There is one rule, no errors allowed. You can write anything you want to as long as your commas and spelling are correct. You do not need to write a "five paragraph essay" or have a "topic sentence" or a "concluding paragraph" or any of that ridiculous crap that they taught me in school.

          I am not a big fan of college. I am a senior and I really would rather be working. As far as I am concerned most colleges are a joke because they have been dumbed down by an administration that takes the educational mission of the school for granted and only cares about their job perks, their fundraising, and their obscene salaries. The students are mostly intellectually lazy people who have been trained to be that way by years of formal schooling and only see learning as a way to get the piece of paper so they can get a good job, so they can get money, so they can buy things.

          Mostly, I pissed because I suffered through all that school and college was supposed to be my reward for actually being interested.

          Oh yeah. Most people cheat at most colleges by the definition of cheating that I was taught. So to all those people who say getting the degree matters? What does a degree mean if the reality is that most people cheated to get it and it was more about handing over a hundred thousand dollars than actually learning or studying anything.

          • Re:I agree! (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Coryoth ( 254751 )
            If I wanted to do that then I would probably just read a book. Very few subjects require formal instruction spread over a semester or a year or several years. Formal education was not created for the person who wants to learn it was created for the person who is to be made to learn.

            I think you'll find that's fairly person and subject dependent. I am currently taking a course for which I could simply be reading the book - why am I taking the course? Because the subject matter is very hard, and the book v
            • Re:I agree! (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Facekhan ( 445017 )
              That is what I am saying as well. Universities were never meant to be just another stop on the road. They were meant to be for research and teaching the edge of whats known by professors who are among those few who understand the material well enough to explain it.

              That is not what college is today. Its basically everything you should have studied in highschool but were never offered a choice. And for those of us who actually learned some of those things in highschool we are stuck taking classes that are su
      • Re:I agree! (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nurgled ( 63197 )

        I've often wished that the British education system allowed the flexibility of that in the US. Throughout my degree (since I was 18) my studies were strictly Computer Science. I would have enjoyed taking some introductory-level classes in some other, completely-different subjects, just to break it up a little.

        I did okay learning a little about these things for myself in my spare time, but spending three years on the same subject does get a little too much. For my masters degree I switched to a slightly dif

      • I think that social systems like software are best improved incrimentally and by as little as possible in order to make the system work.

        Our public school system is obsolete and dates from a time when we were an industrial economy. In this environment, a high-school education was important, but the difference between an indistrial labor and a higher-paying management job was usually a matter of education. In this context things like encouraging high-school graduation and affirmative action made a lot of s
    • Re:I agree! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AthanK ( 844650 )
      I think college was definitely worse than high school. I learned more during the last two years of high school than I did during all of college. If anything, I believe high school needs to teach kids that it is up to them to educate themselves, and that they cannot rely on classes or college to really prepare them for even 10% of life.

      I see people graduating from college with the attitude, "Finally...I don't have to learn anything more." Instead, they should be thinking, "I know how to teach myself whateve
    • Re:I agree! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by psifishdot ( 699920 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:11PM (#11794594) Homepage
      HS was fun and I did enjoy a select few classes but for the most part everything else was a waste of time generally designed to prepare students for the years ahead... In my opinion college was even worse.

      Maybe you should have gone to a tech-school instead of college. A university is not a vocational school. Computer science, for instance, is the science of computation. At its best it is essentially applied mathematics. However, many people think that it is Java/C# vocational training. Herein lies the problem. Universities should be teaching people to be well-rounded in their knowledge and be able to apply diverse areas of knowledge to solve problems. Notice the trend over the last decade or so to multidisciplinary programs, such as bioinformatics. However, most undergrads resist being well-rounded and just want to 'get a job' after graduating. Maybe they should be going to tech-schools rather than universities. Then maybe universities could stop wasting their time training employees and concentrate on training problem solvers.

    • Re:I agree! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Flamingcheeze ( 737589 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:14PM (#11794627) Homepage Journal
      In my opinion college was even worse.

      I Absolutely agree. I attended a very prestigious science and engineering school which cost way too much, and I regret it every time I write a student loan payment check.

      I believe we should try going back to old-fashioned apprenticeships, wherein a young (wo)man goes to work for someone in the field they wish to persue. They would actually get paid for learning, instead of the opposite. They would also be able to learn if their chosen field was not for them, with very little penalty. The way it stands now, a kid can drop $100K on college, and then start work only to find that the career path they've chosen holds no interest for them.

      I highly recommend reading a great article on this subject by Gary North: Why the Job Market Is Slanted in Favor of College Graduates [lewrockwell.com]. See if it doesn't challenge some of your opinions on the value of a college education...

      • Re:I agree! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Wavicle ( 181176 )
        Is this the same Gary North who had a website (garynorth.com I think) informing everyone that Y2K was going to be the end of civilization because all the computers were going to crash and the situation could not be fixed in time?

        Anyway... I skimmed that web page, and I think I totally gave up thinking I should give him some creedence right around this line:

        Instead of going to college full time at 18, a wise student will seek employment by a company on a part-time basis and take his college work by exami
    • Re:I agree! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by miskatonic alumnus ( 668722 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:39PM (#11794835)
      College Education does not equal job training. All of these "fluff" classes are designed to make you a more well-rounded individual, and give you some competence in a variety of disciplines. The reason behind this philosophy is so that you can better see where your special discipline fits in with all the others. For example, it would be dangerous for someone to have a large amount of political power, but be completely ignorant of history. All of the spheres of knowledge intersect.
    • Re:I agree! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by stmfreak ( 230369 ) <stmfreak@@@gmail...com> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:15PM (#11795077) Journal
      In my opinion college was even worse. Here I am paying thousands of dollars per semester...

      Your parents were also paying thousands of dollars for high-school. Federal, State and Property taxes all send some cash to your local public schools. Here's the beautiful part: You pay whether you attend or not.

      Our local levy assesses about $800 per year for our school district on our house based on its property value. As I have children, I actually have an expectation of reaping some benefit from this tax. But consider that I'll easily pay $49,000 over 62 years of working and owning a house of this size into this levy alone... And this is only 30% of their funding!! Am I getting what I pay for from my public schools?


      Not only is the pace of education disinterestingly slow, but they teach kids poor techniques for solving problems (I see a lot of guestimation exercises when my children are more than capable of doing the math). They also fail to explain or "teach" concepts to our children. This is where parents have to step in for an hour or two per night to help the children understand what is going on.

      Now I'm not avoiding being involved in my children's education, but consider the parallel: If you hire someone to do a job and then have to spend an hour or two per day to make sure they are doing the job correctly, what do you do?

      I don't know about you, but I'd like to fire them and find someone more competent to teach my children.

      And to anyone suggesting I send my kids to private schools, please consider that because of my income level, I'm already paying $150-$200K through taxes and levies to support the public school system over the course of my lifetime. As long as I'm paying that, and our many other useless taxes, I cannot AFFORD private schools.
  • by D-Cypell ( 446534 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:48PM (#11794395)
    This critique doesnt happen to co-incide with the release of "Microsoft US high school 2005" does it?
  • I agree. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LiNKz ( 257629 ) * on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:48PM (#11794399) Homepage Journal
    As a recent former High School student, I concur. They spent so much time trying to prepare us to take a test, they didn't stop to think that maybe they should prepare us in general, and design a test that would -- test -- us. We seriously had a class everyday that was nothing but practice testing for the FCAT [firn.edu].

    Teaching to educate the students became a lesser priority. Teaching what we needed to pass a test so the school could get a good grade, that is what happened -- and still occuring. Out of the day, at least two hours of it is being spent teaching students nothing but what is on a test. Every single day.

    I feel like complaining to someone.
    • Re:I agree. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 0x461FAB0BD7D2 ( 812236 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:54PM (#11794449) Journal
      Interestingly, Asian education is extremely exam-oriented. We are not forced to do tests daily, or anything of the sort, but we only study material that is related to our syllabus, on which we are examined.

      However, the difference as I see it, is that the entire educational structure is planned to teach everything needed to prepare students for tertiary education. As such, the tests are only used to measure a student's performance.

      The US education system seems to only have copied the testing procedures of the rest of the world, without understanding how or why it works.
    • Re:I agree. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by The Step Child ( 216708 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:16PM (#11794641) Homepage
      Teachers and administrators might be in a bind, because the public sees this problem of "failing schools", and the way they fix it usually goes like this: give school more money; give tests to make sure said money is working. If test scores come back low, then school failed; therefore, public education is failing, and money gets taken away. Educators seem to be under intense pressure to make sure that these test scores are high, and many districts (like yours, maybe) are willing to clear everything else off of the table to ensure that these scores are high. They know that if "they" fail, the media will know immediately, and throw up a nice spin story about how the schools are failing (or a common one, are below every other district in the state).

      The irony is that many of these tests are written by half-wits. I don't know if any real research has been done on this, but the rumor is that if one were to dissect one of these "tests", it would be full of ambiguity and inaccuracy. Many times, in the practice tests, the teachers won't be sure why the correct answers are what they are.

      But I digress. For every person out there that wants to get rid of these tests, there are two more that want *more* tests to "make sure that the public school isn't failing - again".
  • by News for nerds ( 448130 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:49PM (#11794407) Homepage
    Microsoft HighSchool 2006
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Unfortunately, it's not just high schools, and not just U.S. We are now in the information age where knowledge is accessible through many more sources than the regular "classroom" setting. The world's education system has not changed much since the Middle Ages, whereas technology has.
  • by Have Blue ( 616 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:49PM (#11794415) Homepage
    That's just "broken". Something is obsolete when it is superseded by a superior alternative. I'd be very happy if current high schools were obsolete- it would mean the kids had somewhere else to go that would give them a better education. Sadly this is not the case, so "obsolete" is incorrect.
    • "it would mean the kids had somewhere else to go that would give them a better education"

      They have: it's called libraries and the Internet. All a school needs to do is teach kids the basics of reading, writing and maths, and the rest they can learn from a good library and net connection.

      There is simply no justification for 'public schools' these days: they exist to keep teachers and bureaucrats in cushy, well-paid jobs, not to teach anyone anything (other than to turn up on time and do what they're told,
      • by tehshen ( 794722 ) <tehshen@gmail.com> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:09PM (#11794584)
        You sound like someone with a serious grudge against the education system. I wonder what it is.

        Leaning stuff from books and Internet is boring. Learning stuff from a teacher with other pupils can be fun. I have been reading Dive Into Python for about two months, and although I could probably complete it all in a day I am only about a third through, because I get bored and play some games instead. However, I have been doing maths for about 13 of the 16 years I have been alive, and I enjoy it. All taught by a teacher, with other people.

        Not to mention you do not make any friends.

        If learning from library and Internet is so good, why are schools still here?
        • I do have a serious grudge with the education system. Everything useful I learned, I learned on my own, or in college. Mostly on my own. School was of very little help. It was mostly about power, authority, and the abuse thereof. Learning anything else took a back seat to those important lessons.

          Maybe you were someone who 'played the game' and lived with the system. I couldn't stand it, and bucked the system from the time I was in kindergarten. I can count the number of times I destroyed property, h

      • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:11PM (#11794596) Homepage
        There is simply no justification for 'public schools' these days: they exist to keep teachers and bureaucrats in cushy, well-paid jobs...

        That's not exactly how I'd describe being a public high-school teacher (cushy and well-paid?).

        ...not to teach anyone anything (other than to turn up on time and do what they're told, like good little corporate drones whose jobs will be outsourced at the first opportunity to cheaper corporate drones abroad).

        "to be drones" is exactly what our public education system is designed to do: fill kids heads with so much trivia masquerading as "knowledge" that they don't see the value in learning any more, so much relativism that they'll settle with the simplest answer anyone gives, and so much "self-esteem" that they don't believe they need to know anything. They get to be highly-suggestive ignorant adults who are satisfied with a ho-hum existence and wouldn't know how to rock the boat if it ever occurred to them to try. It was set up that way to create a complacent citizenry that could be herded like cattle.

        (Yes, I'm meaning to exaggerate, but there's some truth to it)

      • by macrom ( 537566 ) <macrom75@hotmail.com> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:25PM (#11794727) Homepage
        There is simply no justification for 'public schools' these days: they exist to keep teachers and bureaucrats in cushy, well-paid jobs, not to teach anyone anything (other than to turn up on time and do what they're told, like good little corporate drones whose jobs will be outsourced at the first opportunity to cheaper corporate drones abroad).

        Sorry, I need to smack you down on this one. Do you even KNOW a single person that is a teacher? Have you seen what public school teachers get paid, especially starting out? My sister got a finance degree from Texas A&M 2 years ago and she makes more than my mother who has been teaching 1st Grade for over 30 years. "Cushy, well-paid jobs" my ass. You go teach elementary school for a single day, then move on to Junior High, then High School. I promise you that it is no walk in the park, and at the end of the day your pay is shit compared to the hours you had to work.

        Typical day for my mom who teaches in Plano ISD, a rather demanding school district in the Dallas, Texas suburbs :

        • Get to work around 7
        • Get classroom ready for the day, if necessary
        • Kids start coming in around 7:30 (~25 per classroom, 4 classrooms)
        • 7:55 - Start teaching
        • 11:30 - kids eat lunch. Mom gets about 20 minutes to scarf down her food.
        • Recess is somewhere in there.
        • Class gets out around 2:45 or 3:00
        • Help tutor those kids that are behind (for free, I might add)
        • Deal with any parents that have concerns or need to talk.
        • Dad brings mom dinner around 5:00, helps her cart out her work to do that night. (She destroyed her left arm about 13 years ago trying to decorate her room for the kids. She fell while hanging stuff on the ceiling)
        • Go home, maybe watch the news. Sometimes talk to more parents on the phone.
        • Start grading papers, helping with lesson plans, work on stuff for the next day.
        • Go to bed around midnight.
        Granted, my mother is an INSANELY dedicated teacher. She puts in a lot more time than your average teacher, but she does it because she refuses to let her kids get a lesser education because she puts in less than 110% effort. I have gone to a couple of PTA banquets where they honor the teachers, and I have parents come up to me and tell me how wonderful my mother is and how they wish their kids could still have her outside of 1st Grade. That's her reward. No stock options. No Christmas bonus. No extra time off. Nothing. Sure, teachers get a couple of months off in the summer, but my mom usually tutors or does something else to keep busy. She's completely dedicated to her work.

        Oh yeah, all of this for around $50-60K a year. She'll get more if she decides to lead Invent America, Olympics of the Mind or other extra-cirricular activities. She gets a small bonus each month for being team leader. I'm a software engineer and I have always had demanding jobs, but there's no way I could do what she does. The reason : my heart is not in it like her's. And that's what it takes to be a great teacher.

        I'm not here to debate the justification for public schools, other than to say 'something is better than nothing', but to stand there and insinuate that teachers have it easy deserves a cock-punch to the person who says it, even if it is a virtual one.
      • by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:26PM (#11794730) Homepage
        If you're gunning for something like learning by rote, then yes, the library and Internet might be a good replacement for schools. That part, unfortunately, won't teach anyone to think for themselves (sadly, neither does the public and most of the other "High Schools"...). The elementary schools can't really teach more than the basics, because most people aren't quite ready for the needed teaching for reasoning things out.

        So, what do you do? You try to fix the High School level teaching to emphasise less rote learning and more reasoning education. By this, I don't mean brainwashing the kids to think a certain way- hell, they're doing that right now in the public schools. I mean that they should be teaching them how to learn on their own (sorry, the basics alone won't get you there...) and to be able to develop knowlege without just memorizing things.
  • by pHatidic ( 163975 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:50PM (#11794416)
    Bill Gates may be repeating it, but these are the ideas of the Aspen Group, a coalition of business leaders and billionaires. Their opinion is that schools were designed to make kids good factory workers, and they are obsolete because kids no longer grow up to work in factories. This is true, schools are obsolete. However, be use a skeptic's eye when these people tell you what the replacement should be.

    This is largely a group of Fabians out to preserve the social hierarchy. It's members include everyone from Steve Case to Jack Valenti. Anyway, I just thought you should know who that even if it is Bill advocating the ideas this time, he is really just the spokeman for a larger group.

    • by pHatidic ( 163975 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:52PM (#11794440)
      Oh, and here is the link [aspeninstitute.org] to the Aspen Institute homepage.

      You can read more about them here [johntaylorgatto.com].

      • I read both of the pages, though I only read the front page of the actual aspen institute. that said, I really did try to be scared by the second article. the problem is, I wasn't. I've read far more damning articles about other topics. the only two things I could really conjure up from the second article as alarming were the "thousand points of light" reference, which popped up much later in Bush Sr.'s speeches, and the notion of segregation in the schools by intelligence.

        the problem is that the first one
    • by Z0mb1eman ( 629653 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:04PM (#11794538) Homepage
      The first interesting post in this story, that might actually lead to some intelligent discussion... thank you.

      Why SHOULDN'T schools train kids to work in factories/IT? (really, I wouldn't differentiate too much between the two).

      No matter how much we might dislike it, someone has to work in factories and in all the "low" jobs. The only feasible social hierarchy IS a pyramid; anything else just wouldn't work.

      IMO, what makes the difference between a good system and a bad system is how flexible that pyramid is. Something like Brave New World, where your place in the pyramid is determined at birth, is bad. Something where anyone can move up (or down) to the best of their ability is good. The tricky part is defining "the best of their ability"... is it how smart they were born? (and no, all people are NOT born equal). Is it how well their parents planned for their future? Is it how wealthy their parents are?
      • by mankey wanker ( 673345 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:46PM (#11794884)
        The problem is that there is very little flexibility in the system and we are practically stuck within an economic class from birth - that's for the overwhelming majority of the people in a culture that refuses to even talk about classes because we are all supposedly part of an enormous middle-class (itself often broken up into lower, middle, and upper classes!).

        There is no real middle-class, not in the way most people mean it.

        What you have to confront is that labor is always made cheap through a series of techniques at the disposal of the wealthy. They love to claim that workers are underqualified - what a great bargaining chip when it comes time to negotiate the value of labor.

        By opening up other markets, we haven't discovered a new trade partner for OUR goods, we have discovered another way to utterly devalue the labor we perform in this country, as governed by our economy.

        Money is dead people. Overpopulation and automation will force the end of all economic theories as we know them. Star Trek Deep Space Nine was probably one of the dumbest shows ever, but one day they had a time travel episode that I watched and boy did the idea of class warfare and riots strike a chord in me. The approx. date on the show for these riots was about 2020 IIRC. I don't remember any other thing about that show except that I kept thinking to myself that the date seemed fairly accurate.

        People cannot keep pointing at the past and say: "All technological advancement has created industries and jobs." Well, that's only half the equation. What about overpopulation? What about when there are 100 candidates for every open position? Or 1,000? Or even 10,000?

        Wait for it.
  • public schools (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Coneasfast ( 690509 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:50PM (#11794419)
    i think he is referring to public high schools, which ARE quite horrible in america.

    here in canada, we have a 1-tier school system (as well as health btw), all normal schools are public, and it works out quite well. note though: our taxes are very high compared to the US.
    • Re:public schools (Score:3, Informative)

      by Drakin ( 415182 )
      Actually, there are quite a few areas in which public schooling could be improved, even in Canada.

      A number of classes are simply rehashes from previous years, history, english and health being the most notable, and such classes are mandatory at a provincial level, so you cannot simply "opt out".

      In many cases technology courses are taught by people who have less understanding of the subject matter than the students who are in the class.

      Certain courses that allow one to discover and expand on talents or en
    • Re:public schools (Score:3, Interesting)

      by roman_mir ( 125474 )
      Oy vei, it's not even that your facts are all wrong (in Canada there are multi-tier school systems, private schools, religious schools, etc,) it's that you believe that a 1 tier system for anything is good.

      Ouch. The health system is 1 tier? Yeah, for those who can't afford the better tier, the tier where you go to the States or to Europe (as I see preference for,) and pay, and get things done faster, better. It's not even about dental (my father just came back from Ukraine, where they fixed 16 teeth wit
    • It's true taxes are higher in Canada, but for most people -- the middle class -- they're not that different. And while you may get taxed in one area you might make out better in others -- such as unlimited capital gains exemption on your primary residence, vs. $250/500k in the US.

      Cost of living is generally lower too, especially in the cities. Vancouver may be expensive, but it's more affordable for its citizens than NYC, DC, SF, or "the OC" are for theirs. I'm always amazed at how many young (30) Vanco
  • waystation (Score:2, Insightful)

    high schools obsolete? well, perhaps. i just sort of saw them as a waystation between middle school and college (always assuming you manage to pick a good one).
  • Try this version

    He says 'Linux is obsolete. By obsolete, I don't just mean that it's broken, flawed or junk, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean Linux even when working as designed compare to windows today.'

    It's all the same drivel with a few words edited. I suggest we stop posting crap by this guy because he's clearly talking out his arse all the time and only gets away with it because he rode the "in 2000 we'll be in flying cars" fad of his era and is now a ri
  • Money (Score:2, Informative)

    by tyman ( 831421 )
    "He said high schools must be redesigned to prepare every student for college"

    What about the kids who cannot afford to go to college. The funding for scholarships is just as important as preparation. As a high school student in Canada but it's not extremely different, I know that if kids know they don't have a chance of being able to afford college, they will not even try to go.

    costofwar.com [costofwar.com] states that the money spent on the Iraq war could buy over 7.5 million college scholarships. However, if you h
    • Several commenters have indicated that both High School and College were worthless because they were forced to endure non-technical classes that were outside their major fieldof study. Too freakin' bad! College (at least, a good college) is not supposed to be a trade school that teaches you how to be a Linux system admin - it's supposed to teach you a broad knowledge base that will help you to write, to read, to learn and to live. If you wanted to get a certificate as a sysadmin, there's non-college option
  • Now the magical school, that is where the action is. I can't figure out why people send their kids to public schools, because studies by Magical Schools for Action has proven that "Magical Schools that Solve All Probable and Forseeable Problems" get better test scores. Man, I just don't get people who haven't taken that next step into the future. It's there waiting for you, we just can't keep educating this kids like we're doing it now. Enroll your child in a Magical School that Solves All Probable
  • by porcupine8 ( 816071 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:54PM (#11794450) Journal
    I really hope they're not planning on just focusing on high schools. How can you increase the rigor of high school so much if a good percentage of the kids coming in are reading below grade level and not even doing pre-algebra?

    Look at any math curriculum across the upper elementary and middle school grades - it's so much repetition it'll blow your mind. Kids learn almost nothing new in sixth or seventh grade unless they're in pre-algebra. This kind of thing has got to start a lot lower than high school if they're serious about it.

  • by Yonder Way ( 603108 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:54PM (#11794454)
    He also thought that "Microsoft Bob" represented the future of computing, that 640KB of RAM should be enough for everyone, etc. The guy lucked into a fabulous opportunity and held onto it through lies, extortion, establishing a monopoly, and other non-competetive practices.

    Yes, the public school system is broken. But I don't have any faith that Gates of all people will have the answer to repairing it.
  • Strangely... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Roguelazer ( 606927 ) <RoguelazerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:55PM (#11794462) Homepage Journal
    Strangely, I'm inclined to agree with Mr. Gates on this one. The High School experience has become that of "7 hours of MCAS [mass.edu]-Prep" here in Massachusetts. Hell, they've dropped World History from the curriculum. Entirely. Gotta love the NCLB act, eh?
  • This is an old idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sakusha ( 441986 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:57PM (#11794471)
    This has been a generally accepted idea for many years. For example, Neil Postman's book "Teaching as a Subversive Activity" advanced the idea back in 1969. He declared that since schools were run by school boards that were responsible to the parents of the schooled kids, and not the kids, schools would always be designed to teach the same things the parents learned, which would by definition already be obsolete.
    It's sort of like the old maxims about the military always preparing for the LAST war, and always being unprepared to fight using the methods the NEXT war will require.
    I don't see any real solution to the problem. You really can only teach using the methods that presumably worked on the past generation, there's no proven track record for experimental techniques in teaching. I've taken courses in college by teachers developing new methods and the classes were just as likely to be a disaster as a success.
  • by rueger ( 210566 ) * on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:02PM (#11794519) Homepage
    "The most blunt assessment came from Microsoft chief Bill Gates, who has put more than $700 million into reducing the size of high school classes through the foundation formed by him and his wife, Melinda. He said high schools must be redesigned to prepare every student for college"

    Hmmm. So Bill, what of the say twenty percent of the population who just aren't going to be able to make the grades to get into college? The left hand side of the bell curve so to speak.

    Used to be that those folks would train for a trade or even go to work for a manufacturer or similar employer where loyalty and hard work would make up for a lesser intelligence.

    Whoops - those jobs have been shipped offshore.

    What of the twenty percent of the population who might have good enough grades to get into a college, but who can't afford the tuition or the loans? Sure some folks can work two jobs and attend college full time, but that's not possible for every student in the country.

    Bill, before offering half baked solutions to the "education problem" try to think of one that takes all of these people into consideration.
    • by porcupine8 ( 816071 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:08PM (#11794578) Journal
      You're absolutely right. Not to mention the fact that if somehow they did get it to where every student went to a four-year college, then a college degree would mean as much as a high school diploma does now. Then we'd have a whole new set of politicians saying that we need to prepare every American for a master's degree... Eventually, we'll be a nation of students, getting several PhDs apiece and not entering the work force til we're 30-35. You'll need a bachelor's to work at McDonald's, but if you ever want to make Assistant Manager you better work on that MBA!

      (Sez the girl finishing her Master's and getting ready to start a PhD program in the fall... *sigh*)

      • Then we'd have a whole new set of politicians saying that we need to prepare every American for a master's degree... Eventually, we'll be a nation of students, getting several PhDs apiece and not entering the work force til we're 30-35.

        I think it's inevitable that people will need an advanced degree in order to get a good job in the future. Westerners will need more and more means to justify our bloated paycheques compared to the rest of the world. People without advanced degrees will only be eligible f
  • by squarooticus ( 5092 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:14PM (#11794629) Homepage
    I can't more highly recommend this essay by Paul Graham [paulgraham.com] as an explanation of why public schooling is so poor. Don't be misled by the title of the essay: that's just the perspective he takes on a more extensive problem.

    Unfortunately, Gates doesn't see the real problems: he's right in that public schools don't tailor their education to what students actually need, but he doesn't for instance address the problem of overcredentialling, which is a result of the perception (and, unfortunately, the reality to a large extend) that a degree is necessary to be successful, combined with the fact that most colleges sell degrees, *not* educations. That's somewhat ironic, considering Gates himself has earned no degrees.

    Additionally, follow Gates' suggestion to make high school universally more preparatory for college, and you'll see college become as pointless and as irrelevant to success as high school, because more people will go to college without any reason better than "I need a degree in order to get a good job," which will water down the meaning of a college degree as most of those people will spend an additional four years drinking and delaying adulthood instead of learning something useful through a more efficient means (e.g., apprenticeship) that will enable them to get a good job.

    You can already see this process happening to a certain extent, as masters' degrees and professional certifications are required to get certain jobs simply so recruiters can cut down the number of resumes they need to sift through, despite the fact that the smartest ones aren't necessarily the most credentialled.

    Personally, I'm sick and tired of the education racket: high school should be sufficient for 90% of people to get jobs, but it isn't; so most of these people go to college. Unfortunately, college doesn't prepare kids for jobs either, but instead provides a place for them to socialize while forcing them to take numerous courses unrelated to their eventual job in order to get a liberal arts degree that costs a lot but signifies absolutely nothing except, "I went to college and that other guy didn't, so give me the job instead of him."

    I paid $130,000 to get my undergrad degree. I had a great time in college, but how much of that crap do I use today? I certainly didn't learn software engineering in college courses, despite being a computer science major: most of my software engineering skills were honed doing my own projects, in HS, college, grad school, and in my job. If it weren't for the education racket, I might have been able to save myself $130,000 and get a real paying job four or five years earlier. Think of the productivity that's being wasted.
  • by gotgenes ( 785704 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (rehsal.sirhc)> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:18PM (#11794663) Homepage

    From TFA:

    Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., said the most reliable predictor of success in college is a student's exposure to challenging high school courses _ and that governors know they must act.

    The problem here is that, in my own experience, a lot of instructors in public schools today confuse a challenging course that induces critical thinking and development of analytical and practical skills with a course that throws large amounts of busywork at students. I attended 3 high schools, one was Punahou Academy [punahou.edu], one was Carlisle High School [carlisleschools.org], and one was Patch High School [dodea.edu]. The first, being an exclusive private school, also had the most challenging curriculum, and the most creative teachers who. The second had the most busywork, and the least creative teachers. The last had a fair blend of both busywork and critical thinking, but leaned towards the truly challenging side.

    These three schools stood at disparate places on the funding scale. Punahou charges a high tuition for their students, and pays their teachers wonderfully, enough to attract even those who hold PhDs. Patch was second on the list, being funded by the Department of Defense for teaching overseas military kids. Their benies were good and their pay-scale was fairly high relative to States-side schools. Carlisle was an underfunded school, where there just wasn't enough money to attract enough teachers who could deal with turning around undermotivated kids.

    It's been my experience that there's a high correlation between money available to finance schools and the quality of education. Money and availability of resources attracts motivated people. I'm not saying that the public school systems should be expected to pay out what Punahou does to attract bright teachers, but when garbage-men (sorry, "sanitation engineers") make more than teachers, it's not surprising that a lot of people that end up in public education are undermotivated.

    There are lots of other factors that go into schools' quality that money can't solve, but increased money and resources is a good start. Bill apparently appreciates that approach, as well, with his donation of over $700M to the cause.

  • by UserChrisCanter4 ( 464072 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:32PM (#11794791)
    1. The US high school system is so obsessed with its democratic origins that it still strives to treat and educate every child the same. This doesn't work. Essentially, we have a system that imposes a K-12 college preperatory mindset on every student that comes through. By this, I mean that we aim to put every kid through Chemistry, Physics, four years of English, Pre-Calculus, etc. Contrast this approach with many foreign systems that break kids off at the 9th or 10th grade equivalent into the kids who want to be in hard-core academics and the kids who need real vocational training. Don't knock vocational training, either; a good auto mechanic or plumber makes more than I do teaching those "academic classes." This "all equal" mindset has placed us in a position where school districts and communities have essentially had to rig up an equivalent to the foreign system; honors and AP/IB classes that actually challenge and teach the "academic minded" ones, and regulars classes that are lax enough to allow the kids through who ordinarily wouldn't ever sit in a chemistry class.

    Please don't take my comments up there to imply that everyone should be hard focused on only the courses needed for what they plan to "do." As an English teacher who pushed all the way through Calculus, non-trivial Biology, and some CS courses at the Uni, I appreciate the idea of learning for learning's sake. I also recognize that there are huge amounts of people out there who don't.

    2) We've gotten "dumber." This is where the root of most of our problems begin. Go look at an application for any university. They have a section where they state their minimum SAT requirements for admission. For a University that has set their minimum requirement at 1100 (for example), there will be a fine print that reads, "or 1030 for tests prior to 1994." Why? Well, the ideal for the SAT is that the average score is 1000. Unfortunately, around the late 80's and early 90's, the scores started declining more than a normal deviation could account for. The average was closer to 920. So the SAT was made "easier." Somewhere between the 70's and the 90's, we all collectively lost an intelligence level that our prior generation had.

    I see it all day long in the school system. Homework is a lesser priority; I can't even assign an out-of-class reading, because it won't get done and my lesson the next day will be worthless. Academic journals targetted at teachers have articles on how to create alternatives to homework that will actually get done, which is something I highly doubt they broached in the 70's. Standards have to be lowered; if I were to fail the number of kids who really need to fail, I'd be out of a job. And don't even get me started on the priority athletics and similar extracurriculars take over academics, or the paltry sum (and respect) given to educators in this country.

    Take your normal standardized test complaint. Yes, they take away from class time. Yes, I use learning time to prep for these things. But they aren't really all that difficult, and it's hard to argue against any claim that they cover things you should already have discussed in the classroom (in most cases). I have no doubt that a 1970's era classroom, poor or no, could tackle an English or Math standardized exam with less preparation than an '05 classroom would need, and still score better. We really are "dumber" than the prior generation (I say "we" here because I am part of this group).

    There are hundreds of theories on why this is the case. I'm not going to pretend that I can explain any of them. Parental involvement is lower with the severe proliferation of two-income households. The burgeoning American obsession with consumer debt both drives the previous issue and misleads students into thinking that a $25K/year job in their late 20's will allow them to have an Escalade and a nice house. The disrespect of education and school in general is an ingrained part of our culture. We are one of the few school systems worlwide t
    • by Anthony Liguori ( 820979 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:45PM (#11794879) Homepage
      The US high school system is so obsessed with its democratic origins that it still strives to treat and educate every child the same.

      I agree with your conclusion but disagree with your basis. The US education system was largely shaped during the industrial revolution as a method to babysit/train factory worker's children.

      Homework is a lesser priority; I can't even assign an out-of-class reading, because it won't get done and my lesson the next day will be worthless.

      I believe this stems from two roots. The first is the amount of "busy work" a typical student gets. Teachers often put very little thought into assignments and simply say "do these exercises from the book." A student then typically gets a "check" or something that just signifies completion.

      If students are forced to spend their free time doing work that doesn't help them learn the material and receive no feedback on what they've done they get into a habit of just getting by with the least amount of work possible.

      The second source of this is the level of expectation from a typical high school student with respect to extra-curricular activities. So much of the typical high school experience has so little to do with education. There's nothing wrong with students participating in athletics but there needs to be a stronger separation between education and these pursuits.

      We've gotten "dumber."

      I'm not sure this is fair. Knowledge is a very relativistic thing. 100 years ago, an education person was fluent in latin, probably french, and had read most of the "great" books.

      Of course, they did not know anything about modern physics, information technology, or any of the modern sciences.

      It's not fair to say one generation is dumber than another because what each generation is expected to know about changes.

      A fair metric to use is how much Americans know relative to other countries. This is where we're failing. This could simply be that other countries are getting smarter.
      • by UserChrisCanter4 ( 464072 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:12PM (#11795065)
        Part of my certification for teaching required me to study the history of public schools in America. Anytime I see this line about "babysitting" trotted out, I shudder. Yes, that was part of the driving force behind schooling in America "back in the day." The instructional methodologies, subjects, structure of the day, etc. is totally different in today's world than it used to be. We've kept the idea of "free public schools," and that's about it. Not coincidentally, the structure and instructional methodologies (with a few exceptions, such as the VoTech paths and less "democratic" emphasis) is very similar in most other countries. Having talked to people who've "been there," I'd need no more than a crash course in local education law to be comfortable teaching my English class in France, Korea, Japan, or Iceland. I do feel like a babysitter sometimes, as I'm sure every teacher does occasionally, but trust me when I tell you that things have seriously changed.

        I believe this stems from two roots. The first is the amount of "busy work" a typical student gets. Teachers often put very little thought into assignments and simply say "do these exercises from the book." A student then typically gets a "check" or something that just signifies completion.

        I'm not talking about a worksheet here. I abhor them, and they rarely grace my classroom. As I pointed out above, I can't assign an out-of-class reading (say, chapters 1 through 4) and expect it to get done. I teach English. This poses a bit of a problem, and forces me to devote classtime to reading a novel rather than actually studying it.

        I'm not sure this is fair. Knowledge is a very relativistic thing. 100 years ago, an education person was fluent in latin, probably french, and had read most of the "great" books.

        Of course, they did not know anything about modern physics, information technology, or any of the modern sciences.

        Read about where I arrived at that conclusion. This is not about languages and physics, it's about the ablity of the average high schooler to comprehend the verbal and math portions of the SAT, and how significantly that changed in the span of ten or so years. Somewhere along the line, the skillset required to comprehend Geometry-level math and Sophomore or Junior-level English dropped.

        That's specifically why I said we'd gotten "dumber" rather than "our intelligence has dropped." The average high school student is probably just as intelligent. They'd probably be capable of learning French, Greek, and Latin while simultaneously reading the "great books" if we decided that that's what they needed. In my opinion, a large portion of our educational difficulties springs not from the school system or classroom itself, but from societal issues that are going to be much harder to change. Situations such as my reading assignments partially demonstrate this. Something significant took place that started telling kids it was acceptable to ignore the work that was sent home, and I don't think it took place in the five hours a week I see them (and believe me, the homework deal is not an issue unique to my classroom). Kids are just as intelligent, but these changes have made our system unable to take advantage of that intelligence. Hence, we've gotten "dumber."
  • by Linuxathome ( 242573 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:41PM (#11794847) Homepage Journal
    I know this will sound like an advertisement. But if you are a parent, you MUST read some of Mel Levine's work. He's a pediatrician whose sole work is to encourage and teach children how to maximize their learning based on their aptitude. If I can explain the gist of his beliefs, he believes the school systems today are too reliant on performance based on standardized tests; parents are too hung up on "college prep" when they should be stuck on teaching their children "life prep;" and there is no such thing as "well-roundedness" (by packing a child's schedule with unneeded even detrimental extracurricular activities) and he labels it "mental obesity."

    Each child is wired differently and it's the schools job to identify how the child is wired and to approach their teaching according to how the child learns, rather than sticking with the current monolithic system that essentially espouses the "one size fits all" model. As a parent it is imperative that you learn how your child learns and foster that. He believes that the current system is one of the reasons why there are so many children returning home from college, "living in the basement," with nary an idea of what to do with their lives or what steps to take next because all their lives, decisions were made for them.

    One thing that he advocates quite vocally is that children should read more biographies. His reasoning is that if they are interested in a certain field, biographies give a glimpse of the "untold" aspects of the career that is often overlooked, like office politics and the social involvements required in certain careers.

    His two most popular books:
    A Mind at a Time [amazon.com]
    Ready or Not, Here Life Comes [amazon.com]

    You can also learn more about his organization All Kinds of Minds [allkindsofminds.org] online.

    Also, for a quick "intro" of his program, you can hear an online interview [wamu.org] with him by Susan Page at the Diane Rehm Show. He talks about everything from the current school system to the increasing diagnoses of ADHD among children.
  • by page275 ( 862917 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:43PM (#11794871)

    I think what he (Gates) suggested is: "The richest man of today dropped out of college 20 years ago because he thought college sucked. Kids today must be better, they should drop out of high-school for their best success".

  • by kobaz ( 107760 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:01PM (#11794985)
    I was never a good student. I hated school up until college. During junior high I would not to assignments on a regular basis, I was a standard rebel. I graduated junior high with a 68 average.

    High school came along and it was more of the same. I failed chemistry, two math classes, four english classes, I was a wreck. I didn't even plan on going to college because the plan was that I would take over my fathers computer business after high school. I Didn't take the PSAT, I didn't take the SAT, and it was my senior year.

    I found out about some local colleges that didn't require SAT scores for admission. I looked at some local technical schools. I then found out about the SUNY technical school chain, which opened my eyes. I could go away to an upstate college that didn't require SATs or anything. (I managed to get accepted based on my resume and references, not my high school transcript)

    My senior year I worked quite alot to try and get my grade up. My average up until then was 74. My average in my senior year was 98. Even though I failed seven classes and never went to summer school I still graduated on time and I had a reduced schedule in my last year as well. Somehow in my last year I had three classes, I was back home by 10am every day.

    I graduated college with a 3.5. I don't attribute my success in college to anything I ever learned in high school. High school was a complete waste for me. I could have skipped high school completely and dropped out as a freshman, got a GED and went off to college and probably would still be doing what I'm doing right now (which is owning/running a highly successful business)
  • by idlake ( 850372 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:04PM (#11795010)
    [Bill Gates] By obsolete, I mean our high schools _ even when they're working as designed _ cannot teach all our students what they need to know today.

    High schools are just a place where students spend many hours with teachers, have their homework and independent study supervised and reviewed, and get evaluated. That's not "obsolete", it simply is the way education works. How you fill those hours, and with what material, is what decides what people eventually know and the skills they get.

    The fact that you can't teach students "what they need to know" has nothing to do with the format, it has to do with the amount of knowledge and the limited amount of time. That's why good schools emphasize preparing students for life-long learning, rather than trying to cram every bit of information into their students' heads.

    Curriculums need to be redesigned, class sizes reduced, and teachers need to get paid better. But those are incremental improvements, they don't change the fact that it is a good idea to have students go to a school every day and interact with each other and teachers in a structured and planned format.

    Gates's attitude towards high school is the same as towards Windows and complex systems in general: make uninformed pronouncements and rush a half-baked solution out into the real world. Twenty years later, after patching up all the problems, he ends up with something that is more or less like the thing he didn't understand in the first place.

    Bill: please stop trying to design complex systems or mess with things you don't understand. It worked badly enough for Windows; let's not repeat those mistakes with things that really matter, like education.
  • by bblazer ( 757395 ) * on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:20PM (#11795100) Homepage Journal
    I couldn't agree more! My wife is a HS english teacher, and even she says the system needs a complete redesign. We are not talking about a refactoring here, but a complete change. We do not give kids the credit and challenges they deserve. The big obstacles are, however, culture, parents, and social economic issues. If mom and dad don't value an education, the kids wont either. If we don't expect more of our kids, they wont expect more of themselves. Additionally, teaching methods are very outdated. There hasn't been significant change and improvement in teaching methods for 50 years. It is the same "lather, rinse, repeat" system. We teach kids to memorize, not learn. We must teach kids how to learn, not be taught.
  • Not tru (Score:3, Funny)

    by re-Verse ( 121709 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:29PM (#11795144) Homepage Journal
    I lurned lots in hi skuwl
  • by spiritraveller ( 641174 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:53PM (#11795318)
    Microsoft today announced that it is beginning development on a new suite of educational applications to be known as MSHighSchool 2.0.
  • by pben ( 22734 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:58PM (#11795347)
    The world's richest college dropout complains that High Schools are poor. He went to private schools thirty years ago that his lawyer father paid for. He will be sending his kids to private schools.

    What could be done if coporations like Microsoft payed their fair share of taxes? What could be done if they took their power as taxpayers to the school boards saying they are failing? What if Microsoft made it known that they will not invest in a community because of poor schools?

    Instead they get tax breaks that shift taxes onto others. They send their kids to private schools. They only look at what will Bill his next billion and let the communities they are in go to hell. They will buy their way out, screw the rest of you.

  • My two cents... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by andreyw ( 798182 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @03:40PM (#11795595) Homepage
    My two cents...

    For me college is nothing more than a money-sucking machine. I am just one of its many cogs. As a freshman in college studying Computer Science, who has/is taken/taking 3xx-4xx CS courses, I find college to be a complete waste of my time. Correction - I find the "gened" classes to me a complete waste of my time. I think I better explain myself.

    I love my CS classes. They are interesting, exciting and at my level (3xx-4xx courses) are quite challenging. I love my mathematics classes (currently taking 3xx level mathematics course in Linear Algebra). What I _don't_ like is being forced to waste my time every day doing assignments for fluff classes that I can't avoid. Look - there is nothing wrong with making sure you can still form coherent sentences. However, having 5-6 10-page assignments is pushing the boat a bit, considering I am NOT aiming for an English major, m'kay? Next - social sciences. Many of you will naturally respond in a condescending tone that 'these course will expand your mind.' I call bullshit. Having reviewed the course catalog, I have seen nothing of worth to expand my mind with. The list of courses from which I have to pick ranges from "Psych 101" to "feminism study." I think I can live without any of this shit. If only the courses offered actually EXPANDED my horizons by allowing me to indulge in say... Norse mythology or history of Astronomy, or an in-depth analysis of Dante's Inferno, OR A STUDY OF A FOREIGN LANGUAGE. But no. Study of a foreign culture's language is not a viable option for fulfilling the "cultural development" requirement of graduation, yet studying the plight of [insert-favorite-oppressed-group] is. A non sequitur at its finest.

    To repeat a point already addressed by others in this discussion, I should state that I am PAYING these sons-of-a-bitches to waste my time and make my life miserable. This is coming out of my own pocket. I see the value of having a broad education, but "study of feminism and gender issues" and other similar redundant crap is NOT going to expand my mind. The classes that will give me a broad outlook on life - such as study of foreign languages (and I mean _study_, not the cursory, slanted and biased overview of some miniscule topic pertaining to some culture), mathematics (the Lin. Alg. course I am taking is not part of my fard. requirement, and thus is for my own enlightment only), history of major cultures in the past millenia and not of some minor occurance within the past 25 years, etc.

    What the hell happened to the "trivium" and the "quadrivium" - the REAL liberal arts, as opposed to the crap forced down our throats that will simply make us clueless cogs, ready to be exploited by the system, instead of thinking sensible adults??
  • by Jon-o ( 17981 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @03:40PM (#11795600) Homepage
    Since when was a school supposed to teach everything one needed? This is a very new idea - until very recently, it seems that "everything you needed" was learned outside of school, at your home, or a workplace (as an apprenticeship, etc...) School was, and to some extent still is, the place to learn academic subjects - those that, by definition, you don't really "need" for life. They certainly are good to know, but it's a different kind of learning. The concept that all your life and career skills would be taught in a school like this is, to be honest, a little bizarre.
  • by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @03:41PM (#11795612) Homepage
    When I was in elementary school (DODDS [Department of Defense Dependant Schooling]), we didn't have enough students to spread them out evenly for all of the grades. Twice, I was placed into a mixed-year class.

    For some things, the whole class interacted with each other (reading time, recess, etc). But for much of the day, the teacher would teach one grade, while the other group did their classwork assignments. That time might've been otherwise been used by the teacher to grade papers -- but she didn't grade quizzes, tests, homework, or classwork -- the class did.

    She would collect up all of our work, mix them up, and hand them back to the class, and give us red pens. If anyone got their own page, we had to trade with whoever was next to us. She'd read out the answers, and we'd mark them, and sign our name as the grader. She'd collect them, and do spot checks to make sure we didn't mess up. [someone could also complain if they were unfairly marked].

    Now, in today's high schools, there are chances at people cheating -- spot checks can help, and if you find something was consistently boosting grades, you have it impact their grade negatively. Some folks might complain that kids might make fun of the others who don't get high grades -- yes, there's that chance [we actually had the opposite -- I remember getting teased for getting good grades], but there's also the possibility that if there isn't so much anomynity that kids will have reason to work harder.

    I admit, this won't work for essay questions and longer reports, but there is no reason for teachers to be taking home stacks of papers to grade every night. Sure, they might mean well, and be dedicated to their job, but it's like anything -- work smarter, not harder.

    I admit, I'm not a teacher, but I do have a few friends who are teachers, and occassionally drop by my highschool, more than 10 years later. [I actually gave a talk, when I accidentally dropped in on the day they were covering 'The Internet' and 'Search Engines'] -- it seems to me that the problem isn't so much the size, but problems with such a heterogeneous mix of students. Some students are solitary learners, some learn by example, some are very visual, some like story context, and some have to learn by doing.

    It might be possible to take the same idea above (more than one 'class', but instead of seperating by age -- seperate by learning style. [I'm not sure which would be easier to handle, and this would probably need some tests run to validate the idea]
  • The problem (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Reteo Varala ( 743 ) <reteo.varala@nospaM.gmail.com> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @05:51PM (#11796659) Homepage
    The actual problem with schools are that they are not focusing enough on the core needs upon which all education rests.

    Personally, I think that schools should teach only three things; Language, Mathematics, and Discipline.

    With language, all knowledge is merely a library away, and communication will be a lot easier than it is for a good number of people.

    With mathematics, just about anything can be quantified.

    With discipline, a person can successfully organize the above two skills into a weapon with which to attack their future.

    Once the schools finish with those three very important skills, the student can then begin the process of building the rest of their own education. Higher learning can still be available, but they should be optional and specialized based on what the student is interested in learning, rather than forcing the student to learn their way.
  • by fbg111 ( 529550 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @09:46PM (#11798630)
    Our high schools have long been designed to provide worker bees, and some argue this is deliberate... [deliberate...ngdown.com]
  • Buh. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SuiteSisterMary ( 123932 ) <slebrun AT gmail DOT com> on Monday February 28, 2005 @11:20AM (#11802515) Journal

    I've long said that the western Education system needs an overhaul, that University needs to be relegated back to being the place for MDs, Lawyers and Engineers, that trades/appreticeships need to be given more legitimacy and pride, and so on.

    But three simple course additions to the current system would improve things, I think: logic, debate, Latin.

    Logic: So many kids going through public school actually knows how to think anymore. Elementary logic simply is NOT being taught.

    Debate: See above, then tack on that so many people seem unable to actually discuss or debate a difference of opinion; only to state theirs, then attack viciously anybody who disagrees.

    Latin: Mainly I think this would help produce better English speakers. Hard to think and debate when you can barely speak the language correctly.

  • by Cervantes ( 612861 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @03:45PM (#11805636) Journal
    In reply to the umpteen posts arguing that courses unrelated to your specialty are useful, I say this:

    Yes, they are useful and valuable.

    No, I shouldn't *have* to spend 30,000 out of my 40,000 student loan on unrelated courses so I can get a degree that says I took the other 10,000 worth of courses.

    At this rate, I will explicitly discourage my children from going to college, because it's not worth hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt. Learn your job on the job, learn your language and culture and classical literature because you want to, and don't be stuck in debt till you're 40. Life is to be lived, and we all seem to be losing track of that. We're all more interested in how much we can borrow and how long we can take to pay it back. In almost all cases, I'd rather go without rather than suffer years of debt.

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court