When Alvin Toffler wrote his book Future Shock in 1970 he was projecting what the future would be like in regard to the human race, technology, education, and many other parts of the world. The majority of the book seems to focus on the changes that will occur and the adjustments that humans will have to make in regard to technology and the human race. Toffler however does discuss his views on education in the book as well. In his opinion, “what passes for education today, even in our ‘best’ schools and colleges, is a hopeless anachronism”. According to Meriam Webster Dictionary anachronism is “the state or condition of being chronologically out of place”. Toffler went on to state that schools face backward in the direction of a dying system, rather than forward toward a developing system.
Alvin Toffler and Sir Ken Robinson, a globally recognized leader in the development of education and also known for desire to instill creativity and innovation in our students seems to have similar view points on education. Both of them believe that the education system since the 1960’s and 1970’s has been focused on producing students just like industry produces products in an assembly line. However, the world is moving in a completely different direction and the lives that students are living outside of school are not matching the learning or environment that they are expected to abide by while they attend school. Below is Sir Ken Robinson’s video on changing education paradigms.
Unfortunately, the changes that are currently being made in many public schools across the country are many times causing the educational system to falter even more than in the past. Students are not retaining or learning information in ways that are helpful to them in the long run. Many students are graduating high school without critical thinking skills or the ability to analyze situations and pull out the important information. Instead, they are memorizing information for a test, regurgitating the information on the exam and forgetting it directly afterward. Today’s education system is very test driven, with standardized tests determining the ranking of public schools and also the funding that the public schools will receive.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 and standardized tests are the driving force of education today. In Pennsylvania, meeting the expectations of who should be proficient on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment is of the utmost priority. Unfortunately, many school districts are focused on teaching to the test to bring up the scores of those students who are considered to have below basic scores. Many times these students are part of the subgroups that cause districts or school buildings to not meet the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) expected of them. The subgroups include students that are special education (IEP), Asian, Latino/Hispanic, Multi-Racial, African American, ELL (English Language Learner), White (non-hispanic), economically disadvantaged or students that meet several of these subgroups (A special education African American Male that is economically disadvantaged). If schools do not have a certain percentage, currently 95% of the student population must take the PSSA. ALL students (the entire public school population) is supposed to be proficient in math, reading, writing, and science by 2014. Currently the 2012 expectation is 78% for Math and 81% for Reading. When you think about the fact that the entire general population are attending most public schools, to expect ALL students to perform well in ALL subjects is not feasible.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses. I may have a creative side and tend to be organized, while another person is naturally analytical and spacial in their thoughts, but have no creativity. Each one of us have core subjects where we have strengths, and areas of weakness. I agree that students should have a good base line when they exit their high school career, but to expect every student to be proficient in all subject manners is a little much. Schools operating in times of the past, using no or little technology, lack of emails, websites, smartboards, laptops, tablet computers, etc are also behind the times. Although keeping up with technology is very expensive, reality is that is how the world works. Students are very diverse, and all bring different ideas and backgrounds to the table. Using these differences and their background knowledge enables our classrooms to real and true learning, not memorizing for a test. As educators we need to stop trying to produce a product that is the same. Not all students are the same. We need to use the tools and resources of the current times so that our students are ready for the world when they leave our doors. However, educators also need the support of parents and students having a secure home life to continue their learning. Many schools have a population of students that are attending who do not have a stable home life or support to do well in school. Toffler and Robinson are correct, the current view of education as a society and our education system are failing our students and our citizens.
Toffler, A. (1990). Future shock. New York: Bantam Books.