Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dilbert on education

Here's Scott Adams (Dilbert's creator) with predictions on changes in education:

In California we're facing a severe budget deficit, and this will demand cuts in education among other things. I can imagine a future economy where everyone is home schooled over the Internet, and the average result is an improvement. With the Internet you could leverage the best teaching methods to the entire country. No one gets the bad teacher or the disruptive class. There are no bullies and no cliques.
Obviously you can see lots of problems with this approach. We assume that kids gain a lot from the social interaction of being in school. And of course personal attention from a teacher is important. But we have enough home schooled kids in the world to test that theory. My guess is that as long as home schooled kids have friends in the neighborhood, and siblings, they socialize just fine. The social skills can be learned on sports teams and at Girl Scouts. And I suspect a parent can give better personal attention than a teacher with 20 students.
Poor kids don't have computers and Internet connections. But subsidizing them would be far cheaper in taxes than sending them to school. And suddenly everyone would get the same quality of education.

A couple of weeks ago I asked the Aggie how much of her college education could have been done on line. She ruled out her Physical Education elective and her Labs for Chemistry and Animal Science. Everything else could've been done via the Internet.

You'd still have to have traditional teaching formats for writing. Maybe art and music. Overall, it would be a massive win for the kids.

But think of the massive loss of government power and control that we'd have. Think of how bored you were in some classes, waiting on everyone else to finish reading one page while you had to sit. And sit. And sit.

Think of the subjects where you were slower than the majority, and needed extra help. Is anyone willing to say that Algebra II couldn't be explained somehow, somewhere online, in a way that even the slowest student could catch it?

Look at what the government spends per student. Look at what the private schools spend per student. Surely we can find a way to enter the 20th century (not a typo) and do better than this.


Gar said...

The problem with home schooling is not with the technology, or the government, or the social activities.

I think it's more because of the parents. There are probably more people than we are willing to admit that aren't qualified to be parents, much less educators (or even education assistants).

Dr Ralph said...

Gar -- well put, sir.

KKJ said...

I think this can only sound like a good idea if you know nothing about education, kids, or the average American family. Does Adams believe that every family has an adult that stays home all day? Or does he just think that if you leave a child alone with a computer he'll focus on lessons all day? Will the only assessments given be ones that can be computer corrected? Or is he going to spend just as much money as before on people to correct assignments given on the computer? (A big chunk of which is being done by teachers on their own time currently.) Adams talks about leveraging the best teaching methods. But best teaching practices include a teacher who is knowledgeable and cares about his students. These practices include presenting information in a number of ways and adjusting the curriculum and teaching methods to fit the students. One size does not fit all in education, even if it's the best method available (and online education is far from the best).

I think even those parents who are completely dedicated to home schooling would reject the idea that all the time and effort they put into educating their children could be replicated by sitting the kids in front of a computer all day.

Tim Lebsack said...

My co-workers with children complain whenever government schools provide their kids a day off. They prefer the child-care provided by government schools to the alternative.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

The current in loco parentis function that our schools served seems to be the major stumbling block to almost any 21st century alternative to our 19th century system.

Everywhere I look on the 'net, the main objection is "What will I do for daycare?"