My grandfather would lecture and talk for hours about days gone by. About how some old things were better than the new things. He always advised mixing the old with the new. “You gotta’ mix the old with the new” he would say. Now he was probably 3 sheets to wind at the time, but the advise is timeless. So with that lofty advise I look back into history to find a system that did work.
It’s difficult or impossible to find successful mass education systems in our history. Ours truly is unique and the culmination of 1000s of years of asking this same question. Let’s give ourselves some credit I think there are good ideas and goods start but nothing perfect. I think the lack of good examples reflects the power and personal nature of knowledge and skill.
Knowledge is power. And the powerful control the flow of knowledge. It should be free and open to all, but books cost money, building are expense, massive computer server farms require huge amounts of energy. Knowledge is not free. The benevolent of the powerful have built infrastructure to support it’s free dissemination. Think about all the small towns in America that have libraries because of these folks. The malevolent of the powerful horde it or produce it for their own ends. How does a democratic republic decide to educate it’s people to insure the malevolent force does not win the day?
The only truly successful model I know is the Master-Apprentice model. It has produced successful people and civilizations for centuries. The model is generally used only in the crafts or trades but others use the model by other names. So simple. The master teaches the apprentice over the course of years. The apprentice works and ventures away from the master as a Journeyman. Later he is the master and transfers his knowledge and skill to a new apprentice.
This model may work in a mass education environment, but only with a radical change in our view of delivering knowledge. The daily education would be handled by a large team of teachers distributed through out the city. We would go back to one room schools but group into ages with no more than a 3 year spread when they start. A single teacher would educate no more than 12 students in small specially equipment buildings. There would be many of these small buildings in a city. These teachers would educate the students on all the basic areas of knowledge and transfer skills for living in a modern word. Existing schools would be repurposed into specialized instruction centers. Laboratories for writing, math, science, music, liberal arts. They would keep there athletics and social functions and facilities.
In the near future, a driverless van will pick them at the one room school, and drop them off at their specialization center. Then pick them and drop them back off at the school. Private companies would maintain all the buildings and equipment for the teachers . The buildings themselves will be highly connected centers of learning. Video conferencing with other schools of a similar age group would occur daily. Teachers would team up to produce materials and teach. A social network would replace the current school board system. It would allow and require parents to make selections and choices on mass curriculum. And it would publicly place some accountability on the parents of bright poor performers who do not receive reinforcement at home.
The students and teacher would stay together from K through 12. They would serve as the Master of Life Knowledge and Skill. This would serve the purpose of the master-appretence relationship. And helping a kid find their natural vocation would be much easier for a person that had worked with the student for years.
It would work differently than my vision. But my grandfather was right. Mix the old with the new and you can’t go wrong. The Master-Apprentice model works. It worked for Jesus and his disciples. I think it could work for us.