Mark Siegel’s Thinking About Education

All education is individual.

As I often tell people, you can’t teach a “class” how to drive. Each student in the driver education class individually needs to learn to drive very well. Our lives depend on the driving skills of others, so we have a vested interest in good driver education classes.

Despite the fact that folks like to joke about motor vehicle departments, I think they have it right when it comes to the theory of driver testing. First, they ask potential drivers if they know the rules of the road and safe driving. If the potential drivers can pass the written test (now administered by computer in many states), they then have to show they can actually operate a car safely and correctly behind the wheel and in actual traffic. Only when they pass both tests is a potential driver licensed by the state. What a great model.

At the Delphian School, L. Ron Hubbard’s educational breakthroughs shape an even better model, elevating education to a whole new level. While driver license testing consists of passing a percentage of the written test questions (only 70% in Oregon!), and demonstrating a percentage of the required driving skills, Mr. Hubbard said knowing some of it is not enough. The licensed driver who didn’t get 100% on both tests never has to re-study what he missed (and therefore didn’t know and couldn’t apply). Yikes….watch out drivers! At Delphian, students re-study anything they missed, so they end up understanding and being able to apply all that they studied.

How many fewer accidents might there be if drivers had to re-study the questions that they missed and to learn to do correctly what they did incorrectly during the driving test? How much safer might we all be?

More to the point, you can’t teach a class to drive. What I mean by that is all education is individual. Having a classroom full of students all doing the same lesson at the same time doesn’t necessarily work. They don’t always all get it at the same speed. That’s why the 1994 Report of the National Education Commission on Time and Learning Prisoners of Time was reissued by the Education Commission of the States in 2005.

The report noted that:

“Learning in America is a prisoner of time. For the past 150 years, American public schools have held time constant and let learning vary. The rule, only rarely voiced, is simple: learn what you can in the time we make available. It should surprise no one that some bright, hard-working students do reasonably well. Everyone else—from the typical student to the dropout—runs into trouble.”

“…. If experience, research, and common sense teach nothing else, they confirm the truism that people learn at different rates, and in different ways with different subjects.
“By relying on time as the metric for school organization and curriculum, we have built a learning enterprise on a foundation of sand…”

Call students “Prisoners of Time” is very strong language. Calling our national K-12 education system a learning enterprise built on a “foundation of sand” is very strong language. But the fact is that most students are imprisoned in the system. Proficiency-based education is beginning to take hold in the K-12 arena, but not at the speed needed to address the huge problems we face in education.

Personalized, individualized education will change the education landscape, as it has changed the education of our Delphian students. It works here the Delphian School. It works in the Delphian School network. It works for all the schools in the Applied Scholastics network. It works to a lesser degree in schools that are adopting a proficiency-based approach. It works for licensing drivers, because the system doesn’t care where, when or how you learned it. The system only cares if you can show your knowledge and demonstrate your driving skills. Proficiency-based programs should be put into place in all K-12 environmentsm, and if each student used Mr. Hubbard’s Study Technology, each student could learn it all. If each teacher and administrator learned and applied Mr. Hubbard’s educational approach, the nation’s children would be much better educated, and many more of them that are prisoners of time would become freed by an education system that works. This would be far better than having students as prisoners in a system that doesn’t (and can’t) educate all students.

You can make a difference. You can have your children attend the “old school” and allow the old school model to persist – the one where time is the constant and learning is the variable. Or you can demand your children attend a “new school” and demand that the schools in this country become new schools, where learning is the constant and time is the variable.

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