These kids today

This is how people older than 35ish refer to young people they don’t understand. It is usually followed by some kind of insult about how they are too sensitive, too stupid, too lazy, etc. Sure I think it is kind of funny when a young kid looks at a cassette tape or rotary phone and doesn’t know what it is. It allows us old folks to be nostalgic about our own childhood. But the insults and the put downs need to stop, instead we need to start changing the was we think.

In my 37 years on this planet we have seen a staggering, exponential growth in technology. There is no way that children born after 2000 aren’t wired completely differently that us older folks. For thousands of year even when there were technological, medical, or industrial advances they were not on a level that would completely change our brain chemistry.

As we built the education system in our country we based it around the agricultural calendar so that children can help their families with farming. When it was possible and a school was big enough we started separating children by their ages. It was an easy to to assess what they should know and when they should be taught it. This worked for a very long time. Even when the agricultural industry became more of a business with better equipment and hired help instead of family help the system still worked well so it wasn’t changed.

Today the whole system needs to be rethought and it needs to happen soon. The longer we wait the more students fall through the cracks and so many already have. When we look at the basics of the current education system, things like the structure of the day, the year and the way we separate children need to be changed drastically. We need to ask ourselves why schools are structured this way and if our only answer is “because it always has been” then it needs to go!

The one overarching problem I see time and again is retention. Our students cannot retain the information that is being taught. We need to ask ourselves why and what we can do to help. We have known for years that our students are falling far behind in basics math, reading, and critical thinking skills. We like to sit back and blame parents and technology. I guess we could blame technology but it isn’t going away, in fact it is only getting better. So we need to then think about not just how we use technology but what these technological advances mean to our children.

We need to realize that age is becoming increasingly arbitrary. We need to isolate the real skills that children of today and of a technologically advanced future truly need to learn. Then we have to set them up to master these skills and build on their prior knowledge. I have heard time and again (and I have thought and said these things as well) “How can they not know this? They have been learning it over and over since middle school” If that is true (and it really is) then there has to be some kind of break down in how they are getting or being held accountable for the information.

I don’t have any idea how to start this revolution but I am starting to see what the answer are; the way we group students, the hours of the school day, the structure of the school year, and the way we assess and therefore advance students needs to change.

I will tackle my ideas on each of these issues in the following weeks. Stay tuned!! Also I would love your feedback!