We had so many problems back in 2012 I decided to compile a list of them, then briefly explain and propose solutions to each issue. I found inspiration in the Occupy Wall St. Movement and Martin Luther’s “95 Theses,” specifically his format and purpose, which led me to my title “99 Theses: Disputations on the Power, Efficacy, and Indulgences of the United States Government, Businesses, and Other Institutions” The “99” of course being a nod to the “99%” of the OWSM as well as the number of issues examined.
Originally it was intended to run as a long, multi-part essay in my local college paper, but it was too long. Around the same time we changed our editors, modifying the piece was put on hold and eventually I just forgot about it for a while. Then a year, or so ago I decided to track it down in my old files and actually edit and self-publish it. I kept coming back to it on and off again for a while until I finally finished my edits. But something struck me: it was too old, too much had changed, and the tone was all wrong for 2018.
As I made all the revisions and updates to each of the 99 theses I also posted some of the longer sections so I could keep writing for the blog while finishing a long overdue project. And unfortunately, while rereading it became clear that almost every problem had gotten worse and the stakes of solving them ever higher. I finally published it this summer (2019 if you’re reading this updated version sometime in the future) so if you like what you read in this section I’d very much appreciate you reading a few of my other excerpts posted here, and here (the intro is the same for all of them so if this is the first one you’re reading you can skip this part next time if you do feel inclined to keep reading). Then, if you like those, I’d appreciate it even more if you gave the whole book a read over! And, as at some point in the future I’d like to revise and update it if need be and it would be great to hear your insights, suggestions and criticisms!
1 -Implement Holistic Education
The American Education System is rotten. The United States routinely scores near the bottom when compared to other developed nations in all areas of learning. Intelligence is often mocked instead of praised and we have become obsessed with testing over teaching students. In fact the entire design from K-12 schooling is antiquated factory model intended to churn out as many obedient workers just intelligent enough to operate machinery. This design asphyxiates creativity, deprives our country and humanity of talent located outside traditional pedantic standards.
We must move away from the factory model and towards something that gives each individual child the resources to fulfill their potential evolve our methods of teaching students so they align with psychological insights of different learning styles. An emphasis should be placed more on thinking as opposed to regurgitation of facts. Facts alone without context and without a student’s ability to think critically and understand the importance and implications of those facts impedes a student’s ability to gain any real, applicable knowledge as well as leaving the bigger picture of any subject obscured.
At present the US education system uses the transmission model of education which sees education as something that is transmitted from teacher to student. Its methods are typically rote rehearsal and memorization. However, alternative methods and models of education already exist: freedom-based learning, which emphasizes the students’ desires and interests; social constructivist which views education as something requiring social interaction; critical pedagogy sees education as a means to the goal of bettering the world and its communities, and holistic which includes its own set of values while also recognizing the value in the other models. Several others models exist along with numerous methods that can be mixed and matched from each teaching style.
Other factors are important too. For instance, children don’t need to be separated by age and they won’t be separated as such when adults, so why not try separating them by learning style? Or the fact that the inclusion of recess has shown to benefit a student’s health and learning ability so why not lengthen it instead of cutting it?
Perhaps most obviously, instead of allowing various mandated tests to consume so much time and effort from both teachers and students let’s get back to having teachers teaching and students learning. Many teachers will attest to the drawbacks of such testing including the flaws both in design and implementation. While all students in a certain grade must take the same test, students with learning disabilities for example may not be afforded the proper accommodations to perform as well as they potentially could.
And perhaps most importantly, our culture must also change so intelligence is praised and not mocked. It must change also the way students with atypical learning modes are viewed and incorporate them more fully into the curriculum. Without a child’s desire to learn they likely won’t. If they’re going to be bullied for being a “nerd,” or “teacher’s pet,” or subjected to any of the far crueler things children do to one another; if there is no value in knowledge beyond the classroom; if there’s no one willing to teach them in a way they’ll understand why would a child feel safe enough, or a desire to learn?