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Five No-Cost Ways to Improve Children’s Education

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By Linda Dobson

1. Get rid of tests.

But how do we know if they’re learning anything?

ClassroomTalk to them, you know, like they’re real human beings.

2. Let children learn the basics (reading, writing, basic arithmetic) by reading real books, writing for real purposes, and calculating for a reason.

But why would a 5 year-old need to write or calculate for a purpose?


S/he wouldn’t need to, would s/he? That’s why it makes more sense to wait until the child is old enough to have a purpose. (How many adults learn things they’re not interested in that have no purpose in their lives?)

3. Armed with the basics (reading, writing, basic arithmetic), let the children learn what they’re interested in learning.

But how do we know if they’ll learn the important things?

Please provide a list of all the things you feel are important to learn. Next, solicit similar lists from 12 friends. Do they contain items different than what’s on your list? Who determines “the important things?” You? Your “smartest” friend? A not-your-smartest friend? (See the problem here?)

4. Remove the compulsory from compulsory attendance.

But why would a kid go to school if attendance wasn’t mandatory?

If he was enjoying learning there, the kid would go to school without anyone threatening to put his parents in jail if he didn’t show up. If the place isn’t inspiring learning, well, guess it needs to get its act together while the kid enjoys learning in one of the bazillion places where learning is inspiring.

5. Let parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, retirees and anyone else interested in helping a child with a project go to class with her.

But what about the commotion this would cause?

First, you have to remember this isn’t the place where one adult is preaching to dozens of children sitting in rows all “learning” the same thing at the same time. It’s a place that is competing with the greater world as a place of learning children want to be in.

Think of the benefits. Remember all those parents who supposedly aren’t interested in education? Now they are welcome to be a part of it. Remember that little boy who didn’t seem to be interested in anything? That was only until he saw the retired electrician showing his friend how to make a parallel circuit, and he was invited to learn about it, too. Remember that complaint about crowded classrooms? Now the teacher has lots of help from the real world, bringing real world knowledge into the institutionalized classroom.

Interesting that while Race to the Top – which replaced No Child Left Behind which replaced Goals 2000 – is spending billions and billions of taxpayer dollars to try to fix the broken system, the suggestions above cost nothing.

Nothing to lose and much to gain, including children who aren’t robbed of their inner drive to learn how the world works.

What else might you add to this list (if anyone bothered to ask us <g>)?


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3 Responses to “Five No-Cost Ways to Improve Children’s Education”

  1. Debfra Elramey says:

    Get rid of the tests. Amen to that. Couldn't resist sharing this poem here.

    Compulsory Education

    You know there’s one correct answer

    when you take that test. So you do your

    best to get it right, the faster the better,

    or you’ll find on your paper a giant red X.

    No time to stop and contemplate. Mark

    your answer without delay. The teacher

    is waiting and heaven knows she doesn’t

    have all day. Thirty questions all the same.

    Every student should know without

    hesitation that the sky is blue. But what if

    today you clearly see a sky of feather gray

    or remember an earlier violet dawn complete

    with the joy of birdsong? Or envision

    yesterday’s blaze of sunset: harmonious

    streaks of amber and pink bleeding across

    the horizon. Oh well, never mind what you

    see or feel or think. Just go by the book

    and fill in the blank. The sky is ____.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this, Debfrah! It's a perfect encore to the blog post.

    All best,


  3. holly lewis says:

    thanks so much for sharing this.

    who can it be credited to ?

    reminds me of my dad,who became a high school teacher that his students admired and respected,

    his own grammar school art teacher demanded WHY he colored the sky purple one day …..

    wonderful poem,

    thank you

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