Teachers Are Boring, Irrelevant, and Not Necessarily Authoritative, Say Middle Schoolers


It's time to re-think the U.S. education system, blogs Tammy Erickson at the Harvard Business Review website.

If you can get past her cheesy nickname for kids born after 1995—they're the Re-Generation!—Erickson offers a tidy wrap-up of what's wrong with public education, including the prevalent notion that students should be discouraged from using their "kid" technology (e.g., texting) for educational communications because it will leave them unprepared for professional life. 

The most striking passage, on boredom:

The kids I've interviewed all say that they wish their classes were more entertaining, interesting and fun. They are living in the most stimulating period in the history of the earth — besieged with information that they multi-process through a wide variety of technologies. But most schools require them to put that all away and ask them to focus on one, often-not-that-engaging speaker. Then they penalize them for getting distracted. 

And this, on Google:

Kids have figured out that the adults in their world — whether teachers or parents — are not necessarily the most reliable source of knowledge. Adults can be wrong — or at least warrant double checking. Parents have told me that even very young children will ask a question, listen to the answer, then suggest that they Google it "just to be sure." Technology leads to a new role for teachers (and parents): that of a learning facilitator and coach, rather than of an authoritative source of information.

In short: If you're serving up boring sludge, kids will hate it. And, despite an "eat your peas" mentality, there's no reason you should force them to consume the non-authoritative information their teachers are offering in archaic formats. We can do better.

For a more promising model, check out these stories on the future of online education.