How America Is Breaking Public Education
“The most important goal of an education is something we rarely talk about: the set of skills and the capabilities of thinking and problem solving that a student acquires. Part of what makes an adult successful in this world is the unique toolkit they have for approaching, attacking, and defeating the challenges they face in this world. A diversity of experiences and methods among the population is a great way to ensure that more problems can be solved; absolute uniformity is as bad for human society as monoculture is for agriculture. The greatest advances in science and society have come about because of the unique backgrounds and approaches some of the greatest minds in history possessed and utilized. Unless our goal is societal stagnation, we need to encourage creativity and excellence, not only in our students, but in our educators as well.”
Last week, I was lucky enough to attend the Frontiers of Fundamental Physics conference in Orihuela, Spain. There was a dual-track focus: on the frontiers of physics and on physics education. For the latter, it was shocking and sobering to learn that many of the practices we’ve put into place across the board in the American Education system in the 21st century, including increased standardized testing, scripted curricula, tying teacher evaluations and school funding to test performance, and enforced templates for what to teach and how to teach it, have been demonstrated to lower outcomes. Not only that, but it drives the best, most exceptional teachers out of the field entirely. Despite the clear research showing that this is the case, America continues to barrel down this path, despite a dearth of evidence supporting the virtues of this path.