Public education, as we know it, did not exist before the 19th century. It grew out of the Industrial Revolution. And the education model we have used since then was formulated along the lines of industry and mass production. Students were mass produced via industrial formulations. Class groupings, regular class meetings for an hour or so, classrooms organized with desks in rows, the teacher [foreman] up in front leading the production line. And students progressed en masse or failed. At first, by and large, the graduates were prepared to fill skilled and unskilled jobs in factories.
Later, and more recently, the high school diploma has not been enough to fill many more complex jobs. And so college became more important and more common for students to continue on. Technical schools appeared for vocational specialties.
As the 20th century came to a close and we entered a new millenium the United States fell farther and farther behind in educational proficiency and quality. Our Industrial Revolution school system was not keeping the U.S. ahead in the world of education. Surprisingly, places like India began turning out more scholars and creative students who proceeded in their learning along unscripted routes.
American political and other leaders offered "solutions" that were anti-intellectual and downright stupid. "Teaching to the test" and voucher schools are only small examples of how "reform" in education continues to fail us.
Much of the public and many politicians therefore became disenchanted with American education. The more frustrated we have become, the more our reforms in education have failed us. We do not need to reform American education, we need to revolutionize it.
The vast majority of CEOs in America continue to ask for more creativity in the graduates sent to them. But our educational "experts" have cut funding for the arts, music, etc. This is counter-productive to what is needed. The Industrial Revolution formula for schools no longer works. And we are piling on more problems by eliminating the very thing that gives birth to creativity.
Many of today's most creative, industrial/economic success stories in America have come from people who dropped out of formula colleges or prepared themselves outside the boundaries of 19th century education being used in the 21st century. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are but two examples.
Somehow, someway we have to right the education ship in America. First, we have to get the needed, major changes out of the hands of politicians and anti-intellectual right-wingers. Revolutionizing America's educational system will require minds far above and beyond the limiting mythology of political hacks and fundamentalist mumbo-jumbo. We need to think in new terms, in new ways, in new philosophies, in new systems, and free our students from the stifling educational blanket we have thrown over them. Our educational institutions must be totally done over. And the comfortable, sleepy professors who inhabit our classrooms must be booted out so fresh faces and fresh ideas are welcomed.
Is it possible that the U.S. can think in such revolutionary terms about education? I doubt it, frankly. But without a revolution in American education, the U.S. is doomed to become a rusted piece of old machinery, not very useful anymore. We are headed in that direction. We need an education savior or saviors.