Alvin Toffler on what’s right and wrong with school

Read this article: Future School

Alvin Toffler of Future Shock fame tackles the failures of public education in this article. What I find so refreshing reading it is how homeschooling, unschooling, charter schools, independent study programs have anticipated the exhaustion of the current model of education. Check out these wonderful comments and think about how you naturally create learning:

For example: Should education be compulsory? And, if so, for who? Why does everybody have to start at age five? Maybe some kids should start at age eight and work fast. Or vice versa. Why is everything massified in the system, rather than individualized in the system? New technologies make possible customization in a way that the old system — everybody reading the same textbook at the same time — did not offer.

Unit Studies!

We’re holding 40 or 50 million kids prisoner for x hours a week. And the teacher is given a set of rules as to what you’re going to say to the students, how you’re going to treat them, what you want the output to be, and let no child be left behind. But there’s a very narrow set of outcomes. I think you have to open the system to new ideas.

When I was a student, I went through all the same rote repetitive stuff that kids go through today. And I did lousy in any number of things. The only thing I ever did any good in was English. It’s what I love. You need to find out what each student loves. If you want kids to really learn, they’ve got to love something. For example, kids may love sports. If I were putting together a school, I might create a course, or a group of courses, on sports. But that would include the business of sports, the culture of sports, the history of sports — and once you get into the history of sports, you then get into history more broadly.

Learning like in Real Life

Like real life, yes! And, like in real life, there is an enormous, enormous bank of knowledge in the community that we can tap into. So, why shouldn’t a kid who’s interested in mechanical things or engines or technology meet people from the community who do that kind of stuff, and who are excited about what they are doing and where it’s going? But at the rate of change, the actual skills that we teach, or that they learn by themselves, about how to use this gizmo or that gizmo, that’s going to be obsolete — who knows? — in five years or in five minutes.

His idea of what an ideal learning environment is, is most effectively achieved at home

It’s open twenty-four hours a day. Different kids arrive at different times. They don’t all come at the same time, like an army. They don’t just ring the bells at the same time. They’re different kids. They have different potentials. Now, in practice, we’re not going to be able to get down to the micro level with all of this, I grant you, but in fact, I would be running a twenty-four-hour school, I would have nonteachers working with teachers in that school, I would have the kids coming and going at different times that make sense for them.

Read the whole thing. What I love about this article is that each of us who has taken that huge risk to keep our kids home, to trade hours of rote learning for following a child’s innate passions, to read whole books over textbooks, to revel in a child’s steady or uneven progress without hurrying them along or slowing them down, have already discovered “Future School.” I’m proud of us.

2 Responses to “Alvin Toffler on what’s right and wrong with school”

  1. This is such a great article and explains why many of us home educators left the public school system. I wrote an extensive comment on this first page of the article comments about the paradigm for home education being a model for the future classroom. Toffler is “right on” in many of his ideas; the big question is whether the all-powerful teachers’ unions will allow change to occur at all. I’m not against unions as a whole, but I’ve seen how the unions here in San Diego defeat every opportunity of modernization and personalization in the classrooms, and no matter who the superintendent is, if he/she run amok of the unions, they’re outta here. Alan Bersin is the prime example.

    Toffler’s ideas are sound and echo much of what we do at home. The reality of producing real change in the public schools is a long shot. Yes, after what I’ve seen occur here, I’m a pessimist. I don’t think that change will really happen, or if it does, it will be piecemeal rather than a concerted, unified effort.

  2. Alicia says:

    Thanks so much for posting this, Julie- I haven’t yet read the full article (I will!) but I wanted to let you know that your post gave me a much needed boost in this late spring, “what have we accomplished?” and “Why are we doing this?” funk of mine.