I’m laid up after knee surgery, so I’ve been working on some writing that may never see the light of day. Some ideas I have that might someday be a book but more likely exists solely to clarify my thinking–in other words most of it isn’t good enough to share. But here’s a piece of it that might be. It’s what I’d like to teach kids, or maybe more like what I wish schools taught kids.
How to read. Not just how to read the words, but how to examine what you read and form opinions. How to separate truth from lies, useful information from nonsense, good and careful research from opinion couched as fact.
How to write. To present ideas in a useful way. To convince or to clarify. To add clarity, life and interest to issues instead of sucking the life out of them.
How to persist. To focus on problems until you solve them, to be stubborn about your efforts, and take the time it takes to succeed instead of declaring something “finished” when it’s not.
How to speak. To stand in front of a group and say what you want to say with confidence. To ask and answer real questions.
How to do. To manage a project, take tasks apart into the small steps that move big steps forward. To manage how ideas get turned into reality and maintain the integrity of the idea.
How to use money. To understand personal finance, risks, leverage, and how to use money as a tool.
How to learn. To learn fundamentals and gain understanding rather than rote knowledge. To continue the lifelong task of adding knowledge and skills. To dig in and use effort and persistence to tackle difficult problems. To squeeze all the juice out of failures.
How to say no. To maintain focus and purpose. To avoid distraction and dilution of effort.
How to say yes. To understand that you have to give more than you get.
How to think. To understand what science and mathematics are based on, to use those principles for understanding how things work and what is real.
I’ve run into a few kids who come out of high school with a pretty good toolkit like the one I’ve listed above. I don’t know how they got it, because it doesn’t seem to be what is taught, but most kids have none of those tools, and I think they are critical to success. Perhaps not success in a competitive sense, but just personal success.
I think the way to “fix” public education is to have a set of clear-cut goals for what it should impart. Not some pointless test that teachers can teach to, but something to aim at. Probably not these goals above, but something like them. To at least have a notion of what sucess is beyond moving kids through the mill.
I doubt anyone would find this list exhaustive. I invite your additions and comments.