#32 - Student Driven Education
Updated: Aug 29
Our modern educational system leaves room for improvement. Despite the focus and adherence to standardized testing, math and English literacy is not what one would expect from the second highest GDP nation in the world. Males in particular seem to be detrimentally affected, if one looks at college enrollment and performance in reading comprehension.
The “factory model” of education springs from a Prussian system to help society adjust to an industrialized world. The implementation of the system was partially to provide free public education to all citizens. Obviously, the state would need some benefit from any infrastructure investment. One clear benefit is the training to obey an instructor, supervisor, or a state official. Another is the provision of centralized instruction in history, which would provide a unified narrative to the educated public. In a factory where the end product would be pieced together from parts provided by multiple sources, it is important that each component is identical to another of the same variety. Creativity is not beneficial to this process, and questioning the system does nothing but slow down the process - and potentially damages the end product.
The monotony of such a process can lead to boredom, which Dr. Richard Saul says can lead to depression and distraction. This can be confused for ADHD. This would be one reason for the increase in diagnosis of such a mental condition. The further difficulty here is that the diagnosis is often based on the observations of a single instructor, and can be effected by environmental influences, as noted by Peter Gray, psychology professor at Boston University.
Other environmental influences that can have a detrimental impact on male educational achievement include social standards, the labor market, and the specific manner of education. Social standards for males encourage dominance and psychical behavior. This (along with average muscular strength for males) encourages the more masculine manual labor workforce which doesn’t require as much educational credentials as other bureaucratic or service based employment. The manner of education can cater to less stereotypically male characteristics in a wide variety of ways, some more obvious than others. The focus on sitting still and remaining quiet through class goes against the more physical nature of males. An emphasis on the toxic masculinity of history can be taken as a condemnation of a sex as a whole.
An option that allows for energy to be expelled and more individually driven education can come from student driven classrooms and rough and tumble play. Because play has to be negotiated with fellow students, one needs to learn to manage and regulate oneself. It also teaches that failure is not the end of the world, but a chance to learn and bounce back. The individually driven activity provides a chance to grow in creativity and self-confidence. This also ensures that the activity and lesson that can be taught is interesting to the students as a whole. This drives a deeper engagement in the task at hand.
I find a tremendous similarity to network based leadership. This reduces a potentially stifling authoritative system to be just as much as is necessary to facilitate conversation and make necessary decisions. It is a dynamic system that keeps members of the network engaged, and allows change when necessary to foster growth. It also provides a space for provocation to challenge perspectives, while still weaving everyone together to grow in a healthy manner. An instructor or facilitator would be necessary to guide and ensure safe and compassionate engagement in potentially difficult subjects.
All in all, I think that a change from rote-memorization and strict imposed hierarchies to a more flexible education model would be beneficial to keep people engaged in their education. When one is focused on obedience to achieve a grade, the stress can push one to find other more fitting communities. If one seeks out interesting knowledge, then the continued engagement can provide new challenges and lessons in a consistent manner.