Thursday, December 16, 2021

8 Bad Education Models

As we consider (or ignore) the opportunity to rethink and re-imagine education, all of our worst ideas about what education actually is have come bubbling to the surface like hippopotamus farts in a stagnant pond. There are many bad ways to frame education, models that are damaging for students or simply twist education into unproductive shapes. Here are some of the worst.

The Empty Vessels

Students are just empty vessels, just a collection of inert, powerless, agency-free tubs into which teachers pour education like melted butter. It's important that the empty vessels hold still and avoid interfering with the process. Just sit there quietly and let us fill you up with this stuff, like empty manikins--certainly not like actual human beings or active participants in your education. 

Meat Widget Prep

Education is for turning out useful meat widgets who will be able to meet the needs of their future employers. The measure of whether or not something should be included in schooling is a simple question--would someone someday be willing to pay you for having this skill? If the answer is no, then we're just wasting time. Your education is not about you and your life--it's making you useful to corporate bosses.


Students are just little machines, and teaching is just science and engineering. If you do steps A, B and C exactly as the science tells you to, every single student will learn exactly what they're supposed to learn. Variations in success are the result of teachers not following the instructions exactly; this would probably go better if we just programmed a computer to do it. Humans are just big meat machines that can be operated like any other big machine.

The Data Stream

Follow the data. Students generate it, teachers respond to it, and administrators crunch it while never leaving their offices. Do not be distracted by the human beings involved in this activity; they simply generate a bunch of noise that will distract you from the pure, clear data. Just keep tweaking the system until the data generating units (formerly known as "students") have been properly coached by the data procurement units (formerly known as "teachers"). 

Consumer Good

Like a taco or a toaster, education is just a consumer good and students and their families are just customers. The mission of schools is to produce just enough of the product of just enough quality at the lowest possible cost and the highest possible price. Public schools suck because they aren't subjected to the same kind of market forces that brought us the excellence of Big Macs and the Walmart clothing department. Tarting the concept up with terms like "deliverables" does not improve it. 

Osmotic Freedom

Put children in a rich environment and just let them, you know, be, and learn stuff. Teachers are just there to offer advice if anyone asks for it, and to help fix hardware problems should they arise. Otherwise, just let the students naturally soak up the education. Just go with the flow; students will be driven to higher levels of education just because.

Training Savages

Children are uncivilized little beasts and they have to be whipped into shape. Their every impulse must be tightly controlled, their behavior constantly monitored, and compliance regularly enforced. It's great if they learn some content stuff, but they by God better learn how to line up when told and how to keep their lips zipped until permitted to speak. Lean on them until they knuckle under and behave themselves properly--particularly the ones who really need it, the children of Those People.

Know Your Place

Look, people are destined for different stations in life. Not everyone needs to learn how to be a leader or the chef or the boss; we need followers and order-takers and people who do the grunt work they're told to do. Education is part of the process of sorting students into their rightful place, and if Those Peoples' Children could just learn to understand this, they wouldn't cause so much unnecessary commotion. 

These models of education, in large or small part, can inform the models for developing schools themselves--and not in a good way. You may well find someone using multiples of these, though probably not all of them at once. Avoid these models and strike them down whenever they rear their ugly heads.

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