EDUCATION FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

We need to reinvent our education system, much of which was designed to train students for an assembly line economy that is no longer with us. Early childhood care and education, K-12 schools, and higher education need to be improved. This is the fifth of the Ten Big Ideas to Save the Economy, presented by Robert Reich and MoveOn.org. [1] We need to build students’ critical thinking and other 21st century skills, while stimulating their passion for learning and reducing the dropout rate.

Six steps need to be taken:

  • Stop high stakes testing. Preparing students for today’s economy requires developing their creativity and curiosity, problem solving and teamwork skills, not honing their test-taking skills. Testing and test preparation (for multiple tests) take a significant amount of time away from important instruction and learning. Testing also enriches the for-profit corporations that sell the tests and related material, diverting funding that is sorely needed for educational purposes.
  • Reduce class sizes to 20 students so teachers can teach and students can learn appropriate skills and knowledge.
  • Increase funding, particularly federal funding, for early childhood care and education and K-12 schools. High quality early education is essential to prepare all children, especially those from families facing challenges, for success in school and life. K-12 schools need to better support students and their families by providing activities for the full work day and access to the full range of services and supports children and families need.
  • Strengthen technical training through vocational programs during the high school years and at two-year community colleges. Our economy needs skilled technicians; not every job requires a four-year college degree.
  • Make public higher education free. A high school education isn’t enough for many jobs in today’s economy; higher education is a public good that should be publicly funded. This will provide a better workforce for our economy and better informed citizens for our democracy. Saddling students in higher education with crushing debt shrinks their work options and their ability to fully participate in our economy.
  • Improve teacher pay so our best and brightest want to become our great teachers. We pay Wall Street financiers handsomely to develop our economic capital; we should pay our teachers equitably to develop our human capital. We want highly-skilled, highly-motivated teachers who love teaching and bring their full creativity, knowledge, and skills to bear, not ones who simply fulfill bureaucratic requirements and oversee testing.

By reinventing our education system with these six, sensible steps, we will all gain, today and in the future.

[1]       You can watch the 3 minute video at: https://www.facebook.com/moveon/videos/10152760137015493/.

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