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Education solutions for people that don’t like school

Edit: I just happened on a video where Sal Khan of Khan Academy has integrated ChatGPT into Khan Academy: great application!

Once upon a time, I was briefly a math teacher for high school students. Math is a subject that does not click for some people. Others even have cognitive difficulties with math: this is called dyscalculia.

From my perspective, abstract math was a subject that many struggled with. In the US, there was a discussion about making Algebra II a government-mandated graduation requirement for everyone when I was teaching in 2009. Algebra II covers the quadratic formula, imaginary numbers, exponents, matrix multiplication, polynomial factorization (solving for more than one variable in an equation), and other abstract topics. These topics can be thrilling for young nerds but have little practical application. If a student is not cut out for this, it can devastate their desire to succeed at school: they give up.

In 2020 my home state of Florida was implementing some of these concepts in its Standard Diploma Requirements and they backed away from the Algebra II requirement for everyone. However, it is required for the scholar's diploma.

A high school graduate that takes a typical course of study is unprepared for life by the time they graduate. They are prepared to enter college which is a different debate. They have probably not spent much time learning how banking works, how to prepare for their old age, how the government works, how electricity works in their home, and so on.

An interesting image from AI here: not sure what it was going for and it generated two images with this same theme. It made different artwork in each of the frames. And those extra arms probably come in handy!

Education solutions for people that don’t like school

    1. Tracking students into ability tiers

    This is politically difficult in the US. It is successfully done in other countries.

    Students can be separated into "college-bound," "vocation bound" and "other." The current strategy in the US is to combine everyone into the same mold and use "no child left behind" and expect the better students to teach the others. Unfortunately, the pace is too slow for what the top students can achieve because they are held back by kids that are not as academically minded and the pace is too fast for the students at the bottom. They are perpetually left behind even if they are advanced to the next grade level. After a few years of falling further behind many drop out.

    It is another trend in the US where it is mandated that a teacher can never give a failing grade: I taught at one of these schools. The lowest grade we could assign was a 65 even if the student just made an X on the paper. The thought process is that it is never too late for the student to pass the class. The clever students who don't like to work catch on to this and don't do anything until the final.

    2. Kids could elect to start apprenticeships alongside of, or instead of classes

    With programs designed for this you can start to learn skills early on: maybe one year students could build an animal shelter, work at creating a food service organization, etc.

    3. Have different degrees of diplomas: skills diploma and academic diploma

    This would prevent someone from completely dropping out and they could spend the same amount of years practicing practical skills like basic business math instead of studying abstract math that might prepare them for further abstract study.

    Then more people could check the box that says "high school diploma" on job applications.

    Someone that showed some interest in graduating with a skills-based diploma would be better prepared for life than if they were just shoved along in an academic track that was inappropriate for them.

    4. Have alternate project based schooling without grades: still broken down by age

    1. You could learn farming, manufacturing, even STEM/robotics and AI management. A good suggestion from AI: "Community service projects: Encourage students to participate in local service initiatives, building empathy, social responsibility, and a sense of belonging."

    5. Have alternative course structures that still teach core competences

    For example have a "sports science" track where students learn about physics, chemistry and biology by focusing on sports instead of a textbook.

    6. Have people besides academics and politicians work to determine some education goals for the country

    People that develop school curricula LOVE school. Many have PHDs and have not had a career outside of academia. Politicians pound the table and say that everyone should be a genius in STEM and we will raise the bar for everyone. It would be refreshing for people that have experienced life success in non-academic pursuits like the arts, military, sports or manufacturing to design useful activities that would give young people life skills.

    7. Have month long "field trips" to different industries or government agencies that would count toward graduation.

    1. Learn how they work. From AI: "Mentorship programs: Pair students with mentors from various professional fields, allowing them to learn from real-life experiences and explore potential career paths."

    8. (AI) Life skills education: Teach practical life skills such as financial literacy, time management, communication, and emotional intelligence to prepare them for life beyond school.

    9. (AI) Career exploration: Provide opportunities for students to learn about various career paths and the skills needed for success in each field, helping them make informed decisions about their future.

    10. (AI) Emphasize growth mindset: Encourage students to view setbacks as opportunities for growth and improvement, helping them build resilience and adaptability, which are essential skills for success in life.

    This can be an important thing to study. Academic schooling is a "failure mindset" and is anti-collaboration, unless you are assigned to the dreaded "group project" where one person ends up doing all the work.

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