Bill Gates gives educators a clue
“America’s high schools are obsolete. By ‘obsolete,’ I don’t just mean that they’re broken, flawed, or underfunded, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean our high schools – even when they’re working as designed – cannot teach all our students what they need to know today.”
- Bill Gates at the National Education Summit in Washington D.C. Feb ‘05
I wish the newspaper would have included the complete text of Gates’ comments, which I could not find. What is it kids need to know? Quadratic equations? The capital city of Pakistan? What?
I’m convinced kids need to know how to fail…
… and what it takes to succeed. Check this from UTI:
We already have some pretty sad stats in science and math in this country. Students from India, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, are coming here in droves and kicking American student’s asses in math and science. I know, I used to teach calculus. The foreign students from those nations just walk all over our students. (Those foriegn devils employ a dastardly and unfair set of tactics to blow the grading curve for American students using any or all of “Going to class regularly, taking good notes, doing all homework, availing themselves of instructor office hours and asking for help when they’re stuck, and studying”. American students have been unable to crack this code in large numbers)
What do kids in high school need to know? Charles J. Sykes, author of Dumbing Down Our Kids has a good list, often erroneously attributed to Bill Gates himself:
Rule 1: Life is not fair. Get used to it.
Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
Rule 3: You will NOT make $40,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone, until you earn both.
Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure.
Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping; they called it opportunity.
Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault. Don’t whine about your mistakes—learn from them.
Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how “cool” you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents’ generation, try “delousing” the closet in your own room.
Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades; they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.
Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.
Here’s a couple more:
(I’ve linked to both of these before but bring them up again because they’re so good)
Paul Graham’s essay, Things I wish I had known
Steven Yates’ essay, How I Survived Government Schools
So what will come out of that conference in Washington? I have a sick feeling it will be some 800-page document for everyone to ignore, and maybe eventually an “Office of” something-or-other.