Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Yeah, I hated school too. It's not ever going to change because it's for the masses. That's its sole and express purpose. Why is anyone trying to redesign the system or otherwise shoehorn exceptional people into a system designed for the masses? Either drop out or shut up, in my opinion. Massive social structures don't have time for unique butterflies. That's the Reality of the situation with a capital R.

The optimum solution is to just get it done at an 75-90% level until you graduate HS or college and get on with your god damn life instead of fighting it for years and years and years and pulling yourself and others down in the process. Just give them the bare minimum of what they want while pursuing your own interests. It's politics 101.

This is why many, many successful people say "I dropped out", or "Oh, I was only a B and C student" instead of "I spent every waking moment of my life trying to rebel against the system in which I had no place in, attempting to reforming it form the inside to suit my specific needs to a tee."

The education system at this point is not a designed entity. It has evolved through the interplay of various political forces. It has no purpose. No one would design anything like our system if they were doing it from scratch. It's just no one has a plan to fix it ( or the authority to implement such a plan).

>> No one would design anything like our system if they were doing it from scratch.

Why not? If I implemented a system, it would probably involve certain things that I wanted students of different age groups to learn (a curriculum). There would probably be people who were in charge of teaching them (teachers). Along the way, we'd measure how well they learned, or how we taught them (tests).

Why is this so preposterous?

Well, personally, I'm an abolitionist. But even if I believed in public schools, there are many aspects of our school system that do not even make sense on their own terms:

1) Kids are mandated by law to attend school, but then when in school, teachers cannot even adequately punish unruly kids because that would violate their civil rights (thanks to a bunch of court decisions in the 70's). That means the worst kids get little discipline, and the good kids get locked in a building for six hours with juvenile tormentors.

2) Schools make less intelligent kids feel like they are inadequate because they are not as good at a narrow range of academic skills. And for what? There are many productive ways to earn a living that require neither algebra, physics, or history.

3) The worst delinquents do not want to be at school. The teachers do not want them at school. They do not get anything out of school because the teachers have no ability to control them. The system is benefiting no one.

4) Teacher pay has absolutely no relation to the quality of their teaching.

5) Districts pay a ton of money for the tools required to equip a vocational school. But those tools already exist in the workplace, and these craft businesses all used to except teenagers at entry level positions where they could learn the ropes for free ( or even get paid).

6) The smart kids who actually do want to learn are usually not allowed to. They are usually beyond the curriculum, yet are forced to go follow the exact curriculum set out by bureaucrats hundreds of miles away.

7) We live in an era where there is far more information in the world than anyone can ever learn, and where most economic value comes from specialization. There is simply no reason to have a centralized curriculum, outside of reading, writing and arithmetic.

8) There is no clear reason to have specialist teachers. Schools could be designed as parental coops. Or as a series of workplace internships. Or as apprenticeships. There are many, many models to use.

9) Why not use older students to teach younger students? It saves money and breeds responsibility.

10) Why segregate by age? Why cut off children from the rest of society in a big box building? Kids always act better when they are trying to impress someone older. Older kids act better when they know younger kids are looking up to them.

11) Despite a tremendous increase in the hours spent in school over the past 90 years, tests of numeracy and vocab among the general public have been flat.

12) Why assume that we need high school. We got through the 19th century just fine without it. What changed?

13) We send kids to college to supposedly educate them, but where the real result is spending 4 years of partying and no responsibilities.

14) The left puts up huge fights against voucher funding for private schools, because they fear that will lead to more class segregation. So instead, many posh suburbs have essentially become expensive private boarding schools where the parents live too. Instead of the different classes living in the same town but going to different schools, they live in entirely different towns altogether.

15) A student has his school paid for for 18 years. But after that he is entirely cut off. Why can't a student take a few years off when he's young and does not appreciate school, and then have the money available when he's older, and realizes he needs to a community college degree to achieve his chosen profession?

16) The school system pretends that it is supposed to raised up the lower classes and increase their earning potential. But in reality, the reason for much of the earning differential between drop outs and graduates is that there are needles barrier to entry laws for many professions. Take away those laws, and lower class students could simply self study and test into the jobs, rather than spending a huge amount on college.

There is only one fallacy that invalides your arguments #1, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #15 and #16: if you offer the freedom of not going to school that you seem to advocate, and if the parents don't care about their kids' education, you have a major problem.

In order for your plan to work, it assumes that either the kid is bright or the parents place a high value on education. Think about this scenario and tell me how you take care of it.

In the meantime, the current system does a good job of providing a baseline education for all.

if you offer the freedom of not going to school that you seem to advocate, and if the parents don't care about their kids' education, you have a major problem.

If parents cannot raise their kids properly, well, you have a major problem. Fortunately, parents evolved to care about their kids more than anyone else, and they are also much closer to the problem than any government. The parents that are so incompetent that they cannot ensure their children have basic economic survival skills are very rare.

In order for your plan to work, it assumes that either the kid is bright or the parents place a high value on education.

What percent of jobs in the economy need more than reading, writing, arithmetic, and apprenticeship? 10%? 15%? In my observations its much lower than people think. And learning the basics was never a problem in the United States. The U.S. had near universal literacy since 1800(1), long before the modern educational complex was created. The baseline requires two or three years to teach max. So how does that justify a compulsory 12-16 year educational track?

In fact, part of the reason that so many parents do not care about their kids academic education, is that the kids academic education does not matter. Neither the kids nor the parent is part of the cognitive elite, so they are never going the game in striving for cognitive elite jobs. The parents are right, the government is wrong. The idea that 100% of the population needs to stars in the academic fields is a lie ( or more politely, marketing).

(1) outside of slaves, who were actively barred from reading

"What percent of jobs in the economy need more than reading, writing, arithmetic, and apprenticeship?"

My Dad lost his welding job around when I was starting high school. He took a few different jobs, one of which was cutting brush with a machete for a local private surveyor. He found the surveying work interesting, so he checked out books from the library to re-learn his Trigonometry (and probably a few other things). This allowed him to get a job with the Pennsylvania Dept. of Transportation surveying group, from which he took early retirement a couple of years ago. I think having an initial exposure to Trig in high school allowed him to realize this career change was possible.

So, it is hard to say what knowledge will be useful, or not, over the course of a lifetime.

If the parents don't care about their kids' education, you generally have a problem regardless. The kids are likely to pick up this attitude, and forcing them through the current school system will not change it.

Anyway, it should definitely be possible to test out of the default classes/curriculum. If one understands what one is ostensibly going to be taught for the year, one is better off spending one's time doing something else.

I agree with many (though not all) of your points. But I beg to differ on this one:

12) Why assume that we need high school. We got through the 19th century just fine without it. What changed?

The complexity of the world changes. The minimum amount of education required to function well in society increases with it. (In particular, knowledge with basic sciences and technological skills.)

An average person, though not everyone, would need more time to absorb information and skills to prepare for adult life. Schooling might not be the best means to train them, but until an viable alternative is implemented, we still need those extra years.

I used to believe this but now I think the opposite. Technology obviates the needs to learn many skills. Some 18th century skills I no longer need to know: sewing, soap making, farming, canning, penmanship, spelling, using a slide rule, long division. I work in software, but I no longer have to learn assembly or C. I don't actually need to learn anything more than my dad did, because I stand on his shoulders. I just learn different things. In fact, the definition of technological process is when a process becomes so good you can use it as an abstraction layer to build the next process on top of it.

You can also took at the most technically skilled people from the 18th century - architects, civil engineers, mechanical engineers. Their jobs were just as complex as the modern equivalents. Yet probably half of them entered their profession with no education beyond grade school. They learned on the job.

Schooling might not be the best means to train them, but until an viable alternative is implemented, we still need those extra years.

Schooling does not provide any training at all for 95% of the jobs in the market. Most people learn everything on the job.

Most of your points apply to the German school system, too.

Well, that seems normal to you because it's how the educational systems you know work. It's hard to even objectively evaluate the current system in comparison to other possible ones.

"No one would design anything like our system if they were doing it from scratch."

I'd like to this so, but the sheer number of people who defend the current system suggests otherwise.

I think almost everyone wants the system changed, but they just disagree with how to do it. A lot of people make money from our current system and will not support anything that threatens their income. Even so, I still think it might be possible to design a reform that was close to being a Pareto improvement. But nobody involved in politics has the ability to design it, or to push it through.

"I think almost everyone wants the system changed"

But the changes that the majority want are really just ways of defending the current system, like adding more AP classes or improving standardized test scores.

The system is all they know, so that's the terms in which people think. The school system is like any product, you cannot design a great product by giving people exactly what they say they want. I'm pretty confident that if I was the CEO of a city, I could design an education system that would blow away anything that currently exists. But alas, such a job does not exist.

* But alas, such a job does not exist. *

Not sure if this is truly relevant, but Dekalb County in Georgia has a CEO position. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernon_Jones

A lot of the people who defend the current system are making money from the current system, or are paid (usually via campaign contributions) by people who are making money from the current system.

When asked to assign the national public school system a letter grade, 62% of Americans gave a C or lower. Only 22% gave an A or B. They were more positive about the schools their own children attend, however. (2008, http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/kpollpdf.htm)

Schools are not designed for the masses. It is designed to satisfy those who are in power and make them look good.

A better system is to go completely private. A real school would be something like "School of Grammatica" and "School of Mathematics" where you know, people learn actual reading, writing and mathematics without having to do 10 god damn standarized tests every year.

It would serve the masses without politicans getting pretenious for "saving the school system".

Then there will be tons of microschool which teaches different careers. You could have a School of Game Programming which might have a class like "Physics Programming" which combine mathematics, programming, and actual physics.

For those that alway want expensive, liberal art education, there's alway universities.

Your idea of an all-private school system might indeed be better, if only because the current one has such severe shortcomings.

But there are benefits of education that just won't be incentivized at all in a market model, especially in whatever option the market makes available for people with lower incomes. Remember that the existing system was designed by big business in the first place, to turn out docile workers for German industry.

I'm not sure what the right model is, but I don't think it's market-centric or parent-centric. It has to be learner-centric.

I am pretty sure it was a system designed to make docile citizens, not docile workers. The system is skewed in the favor of the state(Duh, conflict of interest) and by definition whatever the hell its special interest group the state is in bed with.

Whatever options the market makes availiable for people with low incomes should eventually accures from new schools opening up. Unless special interest groups colludes with private schools, innovative entrepeneurs should be able to build schools that train ever more highly skilled professionals with better educational techniques.

To ensure that this process doesn't get screwed around, you cut all the red tapes and regulations on schools so that people can experiment and innovate to their heart's desires.

Wouldn't that kind of situation foster hyperspecialization? Real, true insight is the result of a degree of expertise plus a smattering of general knowledge. Not that public schools necessary provide that kind of education. Nor do so-called "liberal arts" schools for that matter--rather, they seem to serve as a dumping ground for the innumerate.

Your rant appears to be based, at least in part, on the assumption that massive social structures are in some way necessary and beneficial to the lives their constituents.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2023

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact