The Problem with Education

Let’s start with a poll:

Which of these are you more likely to use in everyday life?

Taking the derivative of a math function
Public Speaking
Created with QuizMaker

There’s likely a variety of options, although most are very unlikely to choose the first option.

The education system is outdated. It was started by employers in industry hoping to make good workers out of children. They prioritized “punctuality, following directions, tolerance for long hours of tedious work, and a minimal ability to read and write. From their point of view (though they may not have put it this way), the duller the subjects taught in schools the better.”  Originally, as it may be argued, this was needed to improve industries and push the United States into the forefront of innovation by having the best workforce. However, that is not needed anymore, and yet, schools have barely changed.

Image result for school from 18th century Image result for classroom today

Can you spot the differences? I’ll give you a hint, there’s about a 150-year time gap between the photos. However, if you just add some color, change blackboards to whiteboards, add some air conditioning, and introduce a little bit of technology, the scenes reveal some similarities. So that brings the question, are our school systems so perfect that they haven’t needed to change for their entire existence? Or, more likely, has no one bothered to introduce serious change since the systems’ conception?

Now, schools have obviously changed since the 1800’s, introducing new technologies and some people, including at my own school, to make strides to make education more accessible and more applicable for everyone and everyday life. Unfortunately, this is the exception, not the rule and many children and teens in poor areas suffer from teachers without ambition and administrators too worried about their jobs to try to shake up the system.

For those of you from other countries with limited experience with the American Education System, here is a good graphic to explain it.

Image result for american education system

Although this has generally worked well enough to help educate children and prepare them for work, the question must be asked, how can this one-way traffic system work for every student? The answer is, it doesn’t many students with learning disabilities fall through the cracks and come out with holes in their education. Not everyone is made the same way and few people, even fewer children, are truly equipped with sitting around for 8 hours a day for most of the year. This brings me to my point, summarized by this TED talk:

A life skill is defined as “a skill that is necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life.” This seems like something that is important to teach children, especially when many students cannot learn these at home for whatever reason. Life skills include dealing with emotions, something that we humans are notorious for ignoring. If you look at the image below, the current school system only really covers critical thinking, problem-solving, and, depending on how much money your school has, creative thinking and effective communication. All the others are left untouched by teachers and school faculty and leave children with some serious holes in their knowledge of how the world works.

Image result for life skills

Therefore, while there is a definite lack of life skills being learned in schools, they do still cover one of the most important ones, critical thinking. It is important to teach fundamentals (math, science, English, etc.) to help develop higher brain function. In this article, it is explained that the current education does actually help brain function for decades after students are done with their education. So there is a value in the current system.

Now that you have some knowledge of the problem, I will attempt to apply game theory to this issue.

This is a complex issue and is hard to represent with just a matrix, but some problems need to be simplified in order to be solved. In this game, schools/governments have several ‘strategies’ from which to choose. They can either A, keep the system the same and teach fundamentals, B, teach a more comprehensive education and cover all the life skills, or C, abandon the current system completely. Each of these has their own utilities, or values, with the values representing the value it gives students. A gives students good long-term cognitive brain function while C better prepares them for adult life. However, a mixture of the two is the best option, providing both a long-term benefit while also teaching useful everyday lessons.














Nash Equilibria: BB

Pareto Optimality: (10,10)

Both Pareto and Nash reveal that a mixture of teaching both fundamentals AND real-world issues is the most ideal and would yield the best results. This makes sense because it would be in the best interest of students to be able to develop their higher order learning abilities while also being better prepared for adult life and the responsibilities that come with it. My game is a simplified analysis of the problem and has its own limits. For example, it really only takes into account the interests of the students and the long-term versus short-term implications of adjusting their education. It must also be taken into account the interests of the school/school system since drastically changing the education would cost money and would take a while to develop and for the students and teachers to adjust.

One option that I think would be ideal, is the Sudbury School Model in which students are given freedom to choose their own curriculums and study their own interests, with students and faculty seen as equals. This model would take a while to adapt to the current system, but I feel that it would be greatly worthwhile.

Share this project
  1. April 27, 2018 by Jess

    Hey there! I really love this project, as I am a huge believer in alternative education – I go to Think Global School, which has a project-based curriculum that heavily focuses on student interest and real-life skills. As a person whose life has been greatly affected by innovative education, I want to say thank you for doing your project on this topic! Well done!

  2. April 28, 2018 by Sidney Derzon

    Hi Jared! I really liked that you chose to challenge the typical education system especially because new types of schooling are starting to becoming available in the world. Your whole project was very informative and well researched in addition to forcing me to think deeper about the flaws in our education system. I loved all the graphics and colors you uses. Great project!

  3. April 28, 2018 by Alison.Meizels

    This is a really interesting project! I’ve thought about this a lot in my life, as I went to a Montessori school for 5 years and therefore grew up with an innovative curriculum. Now, as I am in a college prep school, it can be hard to adjust to how “pointless” some things seem. Great job on your page!

  4. April 29, 2018 by Lauren

    This was such a great presentation! The modernisation of education has always been important, and perhaps never more so than today. As a current student who sometimes does struggle with the “pointlessness” of some assignments, I liked how you framed the complex topics that you covered. Additionally, the TED Talk that supplemented your project worked very well with your solution.

  5. April 29, 2018 by Alexandra.Weinsten

    Hi Jared! As someone who has always loved problem solving and creative thinking, I really connected with your project and am also discouraged by the lack of programs in schools that work on these skills. I think my school, Nobles, does a good job of it, but I think, as you stated, it is definitely harder to change the curriculum in public schools. I also loved how you applied game theory to the issue as something that I always enjoy is connecting new things I learn to what I am passionate about (I always apply what I learn in GOA to whatever I am doing in my classes). Your project has really inspired me to start thinking of ways that schools can further support the learning of these important life skills, and hopefully in the near future new curriculums or programs will start popping up. Great work!

  6. April 29, 2018 by Mattea Horne

    Hi Jared! This is a super cool page, and I totally agree. Schools should be teaching how to file taxes and how to cook along with history and chemistry. My question is, how do we realistically convince anyone to revamp the predominant school curriculum in any country?

  7. April 29, 2018 by Margaret.Collett

    You did a great job with this project! I think alternative learning environments are really cool and helpful. Not everyone learns the same and from my own experience I know I am not the best standardized test taker, so it was quite discouraging to me when I was going through the process and did not receive the scores I wanted to. I also agree with what you said about how schools should be teaching more practical skills. I can remember sitting in many classes thinking how the heck am I gonna use this is real like? I thought this was awesome, great work!

  8. April 30, 2018 by Eden Aharoni

    I loved the intro to your project. The “which are you most likely to use in everyday life” question is one that I think about a lot when reflecting on my classes that my school offers. When answering the question/looking at the options, I thought about how cooking is definently the number 1 choice often but my school doesnt offer that as a course, I then looked at the second most chosen option- writing or public speaking, while my school does offer these “classes” they are not mandatory and are electives that do not “weigh” so much into our rigorus schedules as high schoolers, the last option, “taking the derivative of a math function”- that is 100% something that I can envision students in my school worrying about and spending hours learning how to do this equation and others. I really like how there is embedded articles and videos throughout your presentation.

  9. May 01, 2018 by Hyunsuh.Kim

    I think this is an issue many students will relate to, and agree to your solution— both practical life skills and academic study need to be taught to ensure that students enrich both their minds and lives.

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