Interest Oriented Education: Death to Standardized Education 

I. Introduction

Why is school so boring? This is the ubiquitous question that has nagged at school-aged children ever since the inception of the now archaic Prussian system of standardized education. (“Why Is The United States Still Using The Prussian Education System?”) Why do I have to be here and why is this so boring? To supplement this generalized statement with some specific facts – here are some guiding questions: why are 11% of children these days labeled as ADHD before the age of 17? (“Data & Statistics.”) Why is there a need for a National Dropout Prevention Center in the USA by and large? (“Dropout Prevention Update.”) How does something as natural and enjoyable as education come to be seen as a chore by the demographic that should find the most intrinsic joy from it? The answer lies in the American educational system itself. The history of education in America cannot be thoroughly examined without first understanding the origins of the educational structure itself. The educational system in America as it stands now is the product of the transplantation of the Prussian educational system into its borders in 1843. The system itself was developed by a country that no longer exists and adopted as an ideal means of preparing pupils for a labor market that no longer exists in the United States. Teachers under this system acted as surrogate parents that taught pupils to the point of minimal literacy while indoctrinating them into a belief and recognition of a supreme leader, or ultimate authority. The grading system itself was used as the primary measure of a child’s obedience to the system in place while the entire process – down to the school bell – can be seen as nothing more than a conveyor belt procession of Pavlovian conditioning, in effect destroying all potential for true creativity. The result of this entire process was a generic worker that could be replaced with precision. (“Why Is The United States Still Using The Prussian Education System?”) In kinship with the conveyor belt approach to education is the concept of testable intelligence. Intelligence as a quantity itself has its origins in the research and beliefs of Francis Galton who paired it with other qualities to be used under his umbrella concept of eugenics, which was used as a means of pairing ideal partners for ideal procreative results. (Murdoch, Stephen) It was later adopted in America as a means of measuring general intelligence and thus applying IQ scores to children at different levels of “functioning”. The system of IQ testing led to the application of such labels like “gifted” and “moron” to different children, stating that a person with an IQ of 120 is more likely to work a white-collar job than a person with an IQ of 90. (Murdoch, Stephen)

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II. Overview

The Interest Oriented Education (IOE) system isn’t concerned with anything general and every child is considered gifted in their unique way. It is based on Howard Gardner’s concept of multiple intelligences and further garners its educational philosophy by following the example of the highly effective Finnish educational system. (Los Angeles Times) Under this system, there is no such “moron” or “low-functioning pupil”. How about instead of grading every child by the same standard, we allow them to learn based upon their own unique set of gifts? Why does the child in the back of their Language Arts class reading a Nintendo Power magazine need to stop for the sake of keeping up with the plot of Animal Farm? Are both not forms of reading? Are both not equivalent mediums for receiving information? Are both not imbibing a sense of grammatical structure while introducing the child to new types of vocabulary and information? How about instead of instilling these children with the sense that what they find interesting is wrong – we motivate them to follow their passions to the fullest? Maybe instead of labeling this child as a delinquent, we view them progressively as self-directed learners? The core subjects of the current U.S. Educational system are nothing more than a collection of soulless avatars containing ancillary skills and information that can be learned either through the pursuit of individualized passions or passed over altogether for lack of genuine interest. “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” (@PsychToday) With the IOE system – social media and an intrinsic love of learning are combined to achieve to most natural form of education that can be fathomed. Why is the school a building? Why is the teacher a person? Why is information itself not the educator? With all the digital resources in the modern world, students and educators can be connected by as little as a smartphone. A military member can complete an entire degree in Electrical Engineering from a Naval warship in the middle of the South China Sea, yet for the last two centuries we have been forcing children into buildings we have labeled schools “as a way to instill absolute and uniformity in the students under the guise of education.” (“Why Is The United States Still Using The Prussian Education System?”) Under the IOE system, the student becomes their teacher. In this day and age, “66% of all adults aged 16+ have a profile on at least one social networking site.” (Active, BBC) Concurrently, “75% of students admit to being on Twitter “all the time” and are using the micro-blogging site as a forum to share content, encourage debate, and answer queries.” (Active, BBC) Why fight against the trend? Instead of swimming upstream and appealing to authority and tradition, it’s time to go with the flow and let them control their destiny. Instead of buying textbooks, children can be supplied with tablets. Instead of drudging to a classroom, they can be supplied with wireless internet. 

III. Description

The IOE system itself will be presented in the form of a multi-platform application that will modify in a type of tier progression based upon the growing interests of each child. The information will not come in the form of lesson plans, but will instead be action-oriented guidance. Instead of requiring children to utilize rote memorization as a way of learning haphazardly presented facts, they will instead interactively experience both facts and universal concepts. 

Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences is based on the belief that human intelligence is neither simple nor testable as is implied by the now outdated psychometric concept of IQ testing. It subdivides intelligence into the categories of verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial-visual, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalist, and existential. While traditional IQ tests are only capable of functionally testing verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, and spatial-visual intelligence, the other categories are too qualitative to quantify. (Gardner, Howard)

Happy black teacher and her students wearing protective face mask in the classroom. Teacher is giving them their test results. (Happy black teacher and her students wearing protective face mask in the classroom. Teacher is giving them their test resu

As was previously stated by Howard Gardner: “Learn from Finland, which has the most effective schools and which just about the opposite of what we are doing in the United States.” (Los Angeles Times) In stark contrast to the Prussian system of education stands the Finnish system of education. Under this system, children don’t begin their formal academic training until the age of 7, have a 15-minute free-play break every hour of every day, are completely absolved of mass standardized testing, and still manage to attain the highest global test scores in the Western world. (Los Angeles Times)

Is there something to be learned from Howard Garner and the Finnish educational system? As with the earlier example of the child sitting in the back of class reading a Nintendo Power magazine, instead of being discouraged from reading this magazine, they will instead be encouraged to take this curiosity a step further by using an algorithmic system to push their curiosity to its outward limits. Do they want to simply play video games, or will they eventually progress toward learning how to construct and program their own? Will they eventually gain an interest in the story and thematic structure of the game, or will they choose to become a Data Scientist who lives and breathe the underlying structure of programming languages? By simply following their natural passion, a child could find themselves on the path to self-actualization before even hitting puberty.

“What is the nature of this education system and how will the child’s progress be measured?” is the natural question that comes to the mind of an adult that has grown up surrounded by the standard institutions of traditional education. That’s the major difference with this system. A child’s education will not be treated as a commodity and they will not be compared to their classmates. The only requirement will be the self-directed pursuit of information.

VI. Example

To highlight how the actual program itself will function – here are the facts. At the very beginning of the program itself – which will mirror the Finnish system in this aspect by indoctrinating children at the age of seven years old – the child will answer simple questions about what they enjoy doing and what their hobbies include. (Taylor, Adam) From this basic information, they will be directed, but will ultimately control the path of their education. If they suddenly lose interest in their initial hobbies, they can move on to whatever area they so choose, and the program will be there to guide them throughout the entire process. As an example of the general progression of a simple hobby into a passion, here is a general example of how a basic hobby can lead to both literacy and tangible skills through the application of the IOE system.

The first step of the program is for a child to input what their current hobbies are. In this example, this child’s hobbies include climbing trees, playing video games, and playing basketball. The next step is for the child to rate which hobby they enjoy the most. If for say, they label climbing trees as their favorite hobby among three, the IOE system will algorithmically make precedence for this hobby over the other two with a 3:1 ratio. The first “lesson plan” will be to count how many different types of trees they see in the area around where they live. Part of the initial process is for the child to say what specific part of the world they live in, so the program will already have a general scope of the type of flora and fauna in their geographical region. Once they answer how many trees they see, they will be shown pictures of possible trees that would appear in the area where they live, then they would choose what trees they have seen. At this point, they will be shown both basic and advanced information about what type of trees they have around where they live, and what type of trees they have specifically seen. The information will be tiered but easy to navigate so they can explore the concepts at their own pace. The application itself will have a direct connection to the Internet, so it will have all the access they need to research and understand the information that is presented to them. From this point, the path of their education is up to them, they can either move on to video games of basketball the next week – or they can dedicate the rest of their formative years to learning everything in existence about trees. The only thing that is required is continued learning. The wonderful thing about information is that it naturally leads to more information. From researching trees, they encounter words and scientific concepts. The further they delve into any subject, the more complex the information they’re going to encounter. Either they choose to proceed forward with one subject, or they move on to another. The initial words they encounter can eventually lead them on the path toward Shakespeare and Milton, while the initial scientific concepts they encounter can lead them on the path toward Newton and Einstein. Nothing is limited within the context of a child’s curiosity and imagination unless somebody chooses to hinder it. 

V. Social Media

Instead of sheltering children from the threats of social media, the IOE system will contrarily require them to become engaged and connected with them from a young age, with the added responsibility of teaching them about both responsible and safe usage. The most rigid part of their self-directed curriculum is the fact that they will be also required to engage in chat rooms with students from all over the globe. This will be the only 5 days a week requirement, thus the only element resembling traditional education. The general nature of these chats will be a discussion of similar interests, as well as anything that may run through their young minds to create an organic network representing the modern global networks they will work with as they grow older. Only five-day interactions will be required, although daily interactions outside of the normal hours will be highly encouraged. These chat rooms themselves will be maintained and accessed through the IOE application and will act as their gateway to children all over the rest of the globe. Due to the presumptively staggered and slow implementation of this system globally, the application will initially interact with preexisting commercial chat and social media platforms to accommodate this functionality.

VI. Conclusion

The primary characteristic that must be understood about this system is that it is a complete departure from the traditional structure of education. No longer will the traditional “three R’s” of “reading, writing, and arithmetic” be taught as core subjects, but will be viewed as ancillary skills to be developed in contingency with the pursuit of real and tangible passions. As stated previously, the philosophy of Interest Oriented Education is based on Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences and follows a philosophy imbibing the belief that the skills a traditional school structure is intended to teach can be developed naturally by allowing a child to pursue their own personalized goals individually while also allowing children to develop at their own pace. By requiring them to socialize on a global stage, they will develop a sense of multiculturalism while also learning both basic social skills and the structures of the modern inter-connected world that they live in. The ultimate goal of this system is for a child to have attained – by the age of 16 – both a well-rounded sense of self as well as the tangible skills required for them to pursue their well-explored interests and goals. “‘Cease conceiving of education as mere preparation for later life, and make it the full meaning of the present life.” (Dewey, John)

References:

@PsychToday. “”Education Is Not the Filling of a Pail, But the Lighting of a Fire”” Psychology Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Active, BBC. “How Social Media Is Changing Education.” Social Media in Education: How Social Media Is Changing Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

“Data & Statistics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 05 Oct. 2016. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

Dewey, John. “Self-Realization as the Moral Ideal.” The Philosophical Review 2.6 (1893): 652. Web.

“Dropout Prevention Update.” Dropout Prevention Update | October 2016-Vol. 16 No. 10. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

Gardner, Howard. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic, 1983

Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Murdoch, Stephen. IQ: A Smart History of a Failed Idea. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley and Sons, 2007. Print.

Taylor, Adam. “26 Amazing Facts About Finland’s Unorthodox Education System.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

“Why Is The United States Still Using The Prussian Education System?” Return Of Kings. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

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