I bolded the part that I can really relate to. I decided to take 5 AP classes this semester and now, I simply have no time to pursue my passions, programming and reverse engineering. I want to spend the rest of my life working with and studying those two subjects, so why do I have to spend all of my time taking all of these other classes that have minor contributions on what I want to do for the rest of my life?Yesterday, I shared an anecdote involving a school I once attended with a list. This anecdote eventually became the basis for a blog post. Traffic was fairly normal for the first few hours until it found its way onto hackernews.
Then it exploded.
The comments on both the original blog post and the post on hackernews filled almost immediately with opinionated hackers, teachers and students sharing similar experiences, discussing the problem and figuring out what should be done about it.
Repeatedly, the argument was made that the education system is smothering creativity, actively discouraging innovation and turning out mindless 'drones' with a high number of often worthless qualifications. The case was made that we should act to change the curriculum;
"We should include <name of subject> in the curriculum"
"We should retrain teachers to improve the quality of their teaching and recruit talented <insert name of profession>ers as teachers to impart their knowledge the next generation!"
This makes sense from a data-driven perspective; Better teachers = Better students = Better future workforce. This approach, in my opinion, is fundamentally flawed
Back in the glory days of the UK, schools were largely under-regulated when compared to modern schools. League tables were a figment of a young tory party representative's imagination and Ofstead was a meaningless word
Schools ran courses because they wanted to, not because they would ensure the highest possible rank on the league table. Computer Science was taught alongside 'CIT' and English teachers were allowed to teach "Lord of the Flies" without fearing losing their job. Most notably, however; Science teachers could blow stuff up without worrying for health and safety. It was that notion of 'blowing stuff up' that drove students in hordes into science lessons. How many of the most influential British scientists were once inspired by their secondary school teacher's borderline pyromania?
This is something we have largely lost. With the exception of the most dedicated educators who fight for the combustion of jelly-babies in testtubes to make their lessons more engaging, science is bland and uninteresting and the teaching is completely clinical. The same is true for Maths and for Computer Science, frontiers in which upward mobility is still completely possible and innovation is commonplace, reduced to basic operation of of Microsoft packages, use of dead languages and outdated theories. Where are the pyromaniacs in Computer Science? How many programmers have we lost for lack of 'blowing stuff up'?
To complement this shift in teaching-style, exams changed too.
Where O levels were terminal (one exam, one shot at winning, or 2 if you resat), modern examinations are modular. Each subject consists of anywhere between 6 and 20 modular exams with supporting coursework and assessments. Subjects can and often do entail hours of work each night, severely limiting the amount of time young people can spend exploring their own interests. For high achievers, this problem is only made worse as instead of being allowed time to explore their interests and passions, they are forced to take on more subjects 'because they are capable'. These high achievers are often the ones with outside interests and as a result end up with less than desirable scores in exams and 'Effort Grades' below average.
Though the blame cannot be placed entirely on the way we're teaching our young people. A large part of the problem stems directly from the number of subjects we're forcing upon our students. 5 GCSEs is the minimum, but students are commonly expected to achieve upwards of 16. I myself ended up with 22. We're working our young people too hard.
Reading back through the comments on hackernews, I noticed a recurring theme. Hackers would bring up anecdotes of playing around with BBC Micros in their spare time, learning C in their spare time or building basic command-line games in their spare time. Most of the best developers I know are products of tinkering with technology when they had a minute, but in an educational ecosystem which squeezes every last drop of energy and free time from students, where do they find the time to explore their own interests? We force so much structured work onto our young people that they loose all opportunity to take part in the arguably more important "unstructured work", the tinkering and hacking that once made us the leaders of the industrial world.
We're heading for disaster but we can do something about it. Organisations like Rewired State are already reshaping the way programming is taught from a grassroots level and communities where young developers can share their experiences and knowledge are beginning to emerge in their wake. Similar communities, im sure, exist for other subjects. The kids of Rewired State are the archetypes of a new era of education, one in which we have the tools and the ability to teach ourselves what we want to learn.
We need to refocus out energies not on producing the most highly-qualified generation in history, but the most highly skilled and highly satisfied. Only then can we really start to change the world.
It's not that I feel that they're useless or that they won't help me later in life. It's just that to maximize my changes of getting into a good college, I'm forced to fill in all my free-time with academics. When am I supposed to develop the skills that are truly important to me?
Spoiler (highlight to read):
i know like it sounds that im complaining, but in reality i just read this really interesting article and wanted to share it with bf2s. beacuse this is the debate and serious talk, i thought i'd contribute to the debate aspect of the forum by relating my personal experiences along with my personal opinions. /flameshield