It's probably not very good, I wrote it up for a class I didn't try very hard in, but I did write this essay on the subject of education.
Oh, yeah, I'm aware the grammar is horrendous.
Before the advent of localized public schooling and privatized university education centers people learned the trades and general knowledge associated with the area in and around which they lived. They drew from a pool of knowledge built up over the years by the people around them and shared almost incidentally, though apprenticeships and the like served as their university level education. During and after the Industrial age, when mass transportation became possible, centers of learning (mostly run by the church) became popular due to the constant shifting of populations. This evolved into government and locally funded public schooling and college education and then into privately funded universities during the age of mass communication. In the digital era we must undergo yet another evolution, something already started but not quite yet embraced in the educational sector. Education online.
The history of focused education in the United States began with the opening of Harvard University in 1638. This was quickly followed by mandated schooling and, eventually, public schooling provided by a combination of state, federal, and public funding.
With the industrial age came an explosion in immigrants ignorant to American ways and the concept of the public highschool was born, again in Boston Massachusetts in 1821, both to facilitate the assimilation of the newly arrived and to prepare the nations teenagers for the rigors they would face in college level studies.
With the rise of various levels of schooling teaching a general curriculum from maths to arts the textbook took over. Previously the position of teacher had not been perceived as an end goal, or vocation. Teachers were generally people who had better than common knowledge and understanding of whatever subject they taught but no particular education in teaching. This changed with the introduction of two year "normal schools" that taught people how to teach. Standardized education then took over and nation wide textbook learning became the norm. The textbooks provided the teachers with knowledge they may not know or had forgotten as well as a standard base of knowledge they had to teach, meaning everyone had the same notion of truth, or there was no inconsistency to general knowledge. Any mistakes the textbook contained were mitigated by the presumed continued expertise in the subject by the teacher. Before the internet mass print was the quickest way to share information.
With the internet this all changed but the institutions described above, for the most part, did not.
The ease of access to the internet created the same paranoid delusions mass print created when it was introduced. The internet came to be seen as a place where anyone could write anything regardless of truth and among older generations the gravity of that misconception is misrepresented to this day. The fact is internet sites are now more ubiquitous and better informed than any text book in print.
Where a text book may have a hundred sources, an article on the internet may have thousands. Where text books take months to years to put together and thousands of dollars to print, a page on the internet takes a fraction of the time and cost for the same quality. Where people have to look at the back of a text book and find yet more books, which may or may not be available in the local library, or reports that could be hard to access for the general public to verify sources the internet provides instant linked access to any online content, of which all of the worlds leading studies, articles, and reports are provided online.
The most glaring example of a faulty educational system is the standards by which educational text books are produced and marketed. Two states in the US, California and Texas, have the highest numbers of students and thus buy the most text books. Because of this textbooks are skewed towards educational sentiment in both states. That the other states are largely left out of this criteria is not the problem, the fact that there is any skewing at all is. For instance a recent BBC article (seen for free, on the internet) reports that a change in the texas curriculum include "teaching that the UN could be a threat to American freedom, and that the founding fathers may not have intended a complete separation of church and state." This is distressing both because students should be allowed to decide for themselves the end result of both but also because, as mentioned in the article, "Opponents of the changes worry that textbooks sold in other states will be written to comply with the new Texas standards, meaning that the alterations could have an impact on curriculum's nationwide," due to the factors mentioned above.
Wikipedia is often maligned as an inaccurate source of information due to its changeable nature. But after considering the inaccuracy and skewed perspective of textbooks, when compared to the hard informational nature of wikipedia, it's easy to see which any scholar would prefer in the course of his or her general education. In fact it is possible, now, to develop your own syllabus online using resources readily, freely, available to learn all the general information the current schooling system wants you to know as well as any information directly related to areas of interest. If, for instance, I had known what was available during my highschool years suffering in an underfunded and non-enthusiastic art class I would have spent the time instead viewing and participating in art communities online where I am absolutely certain I would have learned inconceivable amounts more than in the 45 minutes I spent in class. A fact I can demonstrate in my knowledge of artistic programs related to my interest such as the Adobe creative suite. The which I was fluent in before I entered university despite having nothing remotely related to such programs in the course of my schooling.
Since I left highschool much has been done to increase the technological interaction in class rooms. Most have "Smart Boards", virtual white boards, that allow the teachers to more easily interact with both students and the material. But there is still a depressing reliance on the incontrovertible fact of textbooks in learning. If the US educational system doesn't wholly embrace the more contemporary practices of online classes and using the massive amounts of virtual information available to them then Americans, little by little, will take matters into their own hands and return to home schooling using the internet as a teacher and I can't say we wouldn't be better off.
Texas schools to get controversial syllabus. BBC News. 22 May 2010 Last updated at 20:03 ET. Accessed August 7th 2010. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10141121>
"Harvard University." Wikipedia. This page was last modified on 5 August 2010 at 23:44. Accessed August 7th 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvard_University>
"History of Education in the United States." Wikipedia. This page was last modified on 6 August 2010 at 06:28. Article accessed 7 August 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_education_in_the_United_States>