Tag: education

Education in Firearm Safety Will Limit Gun Violence

 Ellie McFarland | @El_FarAwayLand

As mass shootings make their rounds in the news, the conversation about gun control is on everyone’s minds. However, basic education in firearm safety often is not. Legislators and lobbyists run themselves ragged writing bills they think will pass. It is a game of Democrats and Republicans playing tug-of-war with the repealing and reinstatement of gun laws. It takes over TV and radio with shouty gun-nuts and weepy children. Commentators and journalists often forget the measures and laws to prevent shootings already exist. They forget the main issues contributing to gun violence are poverty and ineffective law enforcement. We will never solve these root issues because the politicians voting on them know little about poverty and law enforcement, and less about firearms.    Continue reading “Education in Firearm Safety Will Limit Gun Violence”

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Privatized Education Will Save American Schools

Nickolas Roberson | United States

This past month of February, teachers in West Virginia, California, Colorado, Arizona, Kentucky, and Oklahoma have been leaving their classrooms to take part in strikes all in the name of increasing wages, compensation, and school funding. Their numbers ranged from the hundreds to the tens of thousands depending on the state. Their demands have ranged as well, from a salary increase of few thousand dollars to salary increase of $11,000 dollars, the grand sum of these demands is that teachers want more from the government– in the name of themselves, their families, and especially their students. However, rather than receiving more tax dollars from state and federal governments, there is a better, more sustainable solution; privatize the education system.

Continue reading “Privatized Education Will Save American Schools”

Some Thoughts on the True Importance of Grades

Craig Axford | Canada

School is supposed to be about learning. Tests to determine whether we’ve learned how to do something may be unavoidable, especially when it comes to the so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. But even in those cases, grades should be part of a broader context that includes a degree of playfulness and creativity.

As a student myself, it’s impossible not to sound at least a little self-serving when it comes to the topic of grades, exams, and all the other various methods employed to evaluate us. Believe me, I understand society has an interest in making sure the desired information has been retained and that we are capable of using it appropriately. The certificate we frame to hang on our office wall needs to signal much more than merely the fact that we were able to scrape together enough money to pay our tuition.

But as great as our need to know that the professionals we encounter have at some idea what they’re talking about is, it’s at least as important that the fields they work in be populated with a few rebels who are willing to challenge prevailing opinions now and then. This doesn’t mean adopting skepticism for skepticism’s sake or rejecting the value of a good education. Rather, it calls for a strategic skepticism that rejects the orthodoxy that existing knowledge is sufficient.

We want our heretics to possess an understanding of conceptual weak spots and have the ability to look at old problems from new perspectives. Fostering the kind of playfulness, irreverence, and creativity this demands can be difficult in a traditional school setting. However, while it may be unrealistic to expect schools to abandon grades as an evaluation tool it’s not unrealistic to encourage students (and the rest of us) to stop seeing their grade point average as an adequate measure of their intelligence and potential future productivity.

Developing a firm understanding of a subject doesn’t always translate into an easy A. Arguably, for those truly willing to explore the philosophical and scientific thickets that lie at the heart of virtually every field it never does. Though Einstein developed the theory of relativity only after initially gaining an understanding of Newtonian physics, he did not endear himself to all his professors in the process. As his knowledge of physics grew, so did his understanding of the limits of the Newtonian worldview. His willingness to challenge settled thinking and ask difficult questions others could not answer made him a very difficult student indeed.

Likewise, Darwin was only able to formulate the theory of evolution by first becoming well informed about contemporary thinking about biology and geology. But first, he was a terrible medical student and a rather mediocre would-be divinity student with a tendency to take unrelated classes and develop hobbies like beetle collecting simply because he found them interesting. Had Darwin attended university now instead of in the 1820s, he could very easily have found himself enrolled for years, piling up student debt as he struggled to select a major.


The mission of any school should be to teach; the goal of any student should be to learn. But learning is a complex activity that involves the integration of new information that must be filtered through each student’s unique life experiences and personality. It is rarely if ever as linear a process as we tend to think it is. Given this reality, the correlation between “good students” and good grades is frequently as complicated at the ‘A’ end of the spectrum as it can be nearer the ‘F’ end.

A few years ago I took an osteology course to meet a requirement for my anthropology degree. It was the final year of an undergraduate program that included two degrees and that, for a variety of reasons, I was very much looking forward to finishing.

Cultural, not physical anthropology had been my focus. Bones were interesting but I didn’t see myself participating in any archaeological digs in the future. More problematic, however, was the expectation that students be able to very quickly identify bone fragments by the end of the course. Lab tests involved spending about 30 minutes with roughly 30 often very small pieces of teeth or bone, moving systematically from one to the other while the instructor timed us. I usually found myself spending the first 15 seconds at the next sample writing down my answer for the last one.

Given such identification probably involved hours of examination and discussion in the field, I seriously questioned the purpose of providing so little time with samples in the lab. It didn’t help that high-pressure tests requiring me to make very quick decisions also produce what I can only describe as mild panic attacks.

I barely passed the course, and then thanks only to an extra credit paper I wrote on the topic of rickets. But that paper enabled me to apply my cultural anthropology learning to osteology. To this day I still remember the results of much of my research for that extra credit assignment. In addition, due to the countless hours spent watching Youtube videos about the human skeleton and engaging with interactive anatomy programs, to say nothing of the time spent staring at images of Homo habilis and modern human bone fragments trying to identify the subtle differences between them, I can honestly say that my final grade did not reflect the amount of learning that took place that semester.


In his December 8th opinion piece in the New York Timesthe organizational psychologist Adam Grant argues it is among past students with grade point averages of 2.0–3.0 that we often find the best minds, not 4.0 or 1.0 and under. Grant writes:

Academic grades rarely assess qualities like creativity, leadership and teamwork skills, or social, emotional and political intelligence. Yes, straight-A students master cramming information and regurgitating it on exams. But career success is rarely about finding the right solution to a problem — it’s more about finding the right problem to solve.

In a classic 1962 study, a team of psychologists tracked down America’s most creative architects and compared them with their technically skilled but less original peers. One of the factors that distinguished the creative architects was a record of spiky grades. “In college our creative architects earned about a B average,” Donald MacKinnon wrote. “In work and courses which caught their interest they could turn in an A performance, but in courses that failed to strike their imagination, they were quite willing to do no work at all.” They paid attention to their curiosity and prioritized activities that they found intrinsically motivating — which ultimately served them well in their careers.

Anyone who has ever had to bring home a mediocre report card, let alone a downright disappointing one, has likely reminded their parents that Einstein had a reputation as a poor student or that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were both university dropouts. Indeed, Grant provides his own list in his NY Times op-ed, pointing out that JK Rowling was a C student and Martin Luther King only ever received a single A.

Our parents were probably right to keep pressuring us to bring our GPA up. Though a great many great minds have been mediocre students, it doesn’t follow that mediocrity is necessarily an indicator of a mind functioning at the height of its potential. Usually, it’s just a sign of mediocrity.

Nonetheless, we need to be aware of what our grades are actually measuring, and in too many cases it is an ability to recite information we’ve heard or read rather than apply knowledge in new ways no one has previously thought of before. It’s one thing to know the dates marking great events in history or ace every spelling test, but it’s those able to apply the lessons of history to contemporary social problems or write great novels that really keep our culture marching forward.

If your goal is to graduate without a blemish on your transcript, you end up taking easier classes and staying within your comfort zone. If you’re willing to tolerate the occasional B, you can learn to program in Python while struggling to decipher “Finnegans Wake.” You gain experience coping with failures and setbacks, which builds resilience. ~ Adam Grant


Rule number five among the Dalai Lama’s 18 Rules for Living is “Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.” Finding ways to produce the same or better outcomes more efficiently without causing yourself or others harm means first learning the path conventionally followed by others to get there.

But a willingness to apply the information that comes our way in the classroom — or anywhere else — in creative ways is necessarily going to be risky, even when we carry out our experiments “properly”. First of all, we may find out we were wrong. But as social creatures, perhaps what’s most threatening to us is our innate fear of rejection.

Credit: Anna Jordanous, University of Kent School of Computing — Science Daily

Others often don’t appreciate the fact that we’re thinking outside the box, even when we’re proven right in the end. In a classroom setting, our teachers may not approve. At work, it may mean getting called into the boss’ office for a lecture on following company procedures to the letter.

Unfortunately, both mistakes and rejection are inherent risks of the learning process. While we need to be mindful of the lines we choose to color outside of, we still need to be willing to wander beyond them now and then. The lessons that really stick with us, whether from the classroom or elsewhere, are the ones that involved the most growth. If we’re honest, those experiences almost never include a perfect grade.

Follow Craig on Twitter or read him on Medium.com


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The Tyranny and Failure of Coercive Paternalism

By John Keller | United States

Coercive Paternalism can be defined as intervention in cases where people’s choices of the means to achieving their ultimate ends are confused. An argument of this nature, notably by Sarah Conly, rests on four main points: (1) Such a view promotes individuals actual goals. (2) Coercive Paternalism is effective. (3) The benefits are worth the cost. (4) Coercive Paternalism is efficient. Coercive Paternalism offers an ambiguous and unclear argument that ignores many of the complexities of the issues.

The Argument For Paternalism

A Coercive Paternalist would make an argument such as this: (1) People want to live long and healthy lives. (2) Eating processed foods and consuming drugs hinders people from living long and healthy lives. (3) Thus, the government must ban certain foods and drugs to promote the goal of the individual. Assuming the premise to be true, a rather noncontroversial claim, logically the next step is to examine the second step of the argument. Does consuming drugs hinder people from wanting to live long and healthy lives?

Examine, for instance, veteran suicide and veterans who deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Marijuana has been instrumental, if not vital, to veterans dealing with the mental complications involved with going into combat. By denying veterans drugs to promote the ‘individuals’ goals, they are actually exacerbating the mental complications of veterans and creating an environment in which veterans are forced to live shorter, mentally unhealthy lives as they tragically fall victim to the grip of suicide. Is this outcome the promotion of ‘long and healthy lives’? No, and thus Coercive Paternalism is unable to provide the needs of individual citizens.

The Failure of Coercive Paternalism

As it is unable to provide the needs of the individual citizens, it can not be effective. Paternalism itself is the idea in which the government must assume a role similar to that of your parent because the individual is inadequate to take of themselves and make good choices. Are any two individuals the same? Are any two children raised the same? Even siblings are often raised differently as a parent learns more, realizes mistakes, and adjust in real time to the needs of their children. The government, however, can not operate in this way on an individual level. Instead, they institute a policy under the basis of ‘one shoe fits all’. A clear example of this is common core education. With more money in the education system, improvement has been rare to come by. RealClear Education reports, “Between 2013 and 2017, only five jurisdictions logged improvements in 4th-grade math and just three in 8th-grade math.” As no two individuals develop the same, no government program can claim to be for the benefit of every citizen.

The theorized benefits of paternalism, that cannot apply to every citizen due to the nature of individuality, are not worth the cost. From 2013-2017, a total of $375,577,635,000 was spent federally, with an additional $840,757,185,970 spent in the same time frame by the states. In 2013, roughly 62,146,000 children went to school. That means that between 2013-2017, a total of $1,216,334,820,000 was spent on 62,146,000 school age children, or roughly $19,572.21 per student. As a result of paternalism, $1.2 trillion was spent to see only eight jurisdictions see an increase in math skills of America’s youth.

With the cost not being worth the near invisible benefits, Coercive Paternalism fails to also be effective. While it is not effective, it also fails to be efficient. Prohibition has historically failed to be efficient. The Eighth Amendment, passed in 1917 and ratified in 1919, was passed to prohibit the sales, transportation, importation, and exportation of “intoxicating liquors”, also known, more commonly, as alcohol. During the Prohibition Era, drinking remained constant. It is very likely that it not only stayed at the pre-prohibition levels but that drinking increased following the prohibition. When the government stopped sanctioning the legality of the alcohol industry and its services, it was forced to go into an underground state, run by speakeasies throughout the nation. The people reverted to the black market to get the products they desired, proving government regulation of the market to be inefficient. Furthermore, the government prohibition on the use of marijuana proved again to be a failure for the U.S government. Historically speaking, prohibition has always been ineffective.

Coercive Paternalism fails to promote the individual’s actual goals, is not effective, and is not worth the cost. The theory of Coercive Paternalism offers a simple answer to the complexities of society that fails to respect an individuals rights, needs, and the pursuit of happiness.


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The Current Education Model Benefits No One

William Ramage | United States

Public education in America is more restrictive than it is beneficial to one’s knowledge. Students are compelled to memorize facts and become experts in subjects they cannot personally relate to or have no interest in whatsoever. With no enthusiasm or will to learn, students gain little from the learning experience. They often forget what they study shortly after the unit draws to a close and question why the information is a necessary use of their knowledge and time. This is equally detrimental to the teacher as their career begins to lose its sense of value and purpose. Educating students daily who have no desire to learn the material other than to boost their GPA, and with it their prospects of being admitted to a good college is demoralizing to the teacher who has studied that subject their entire life and found value in its practice and development.

The true meaning of learning and acquiring knowledge has been lost within the modern public education system, as students are more concerned with improving their grades than thoroughly learning the material, resulting in academic dishonesty and the feeling of dissatisfaction with the system. If students aren’t truly learning and engaging in the material, what knowledge are they gaining from the 12 years of public schooling? While studying and organization skills are also valuable takeaways from secondary school, they should not be the main outcome of many hours spent studying. In practice, public education just barely reaches the intended outcome of preparing students to become economically self-sufficient but falls short of giving students a chance to think for themselves and take their own stances on issues. Most subjects do not have a black and white objective answer, and many perspectives can be reasonably argued from multiple viewpoints. Many potentially correct arguments are shot down by teachers as they disagree with the stance or believe that their perspective is the only defensible one. It is within our nature to believe something is wrong when we do not agree with it, so it is unfair to blame educators for this behavior. It is important for students to learn that there are often multiple correct viewpoints in the real world, and schooling fails to provide examples of this reality to its students.

The grading scale used in the typical American classroom is systematically incorrect in the sense that it is very difficult to assess knowledge by a singular number. Many uncontrollable factors determine our intelligence and how we may apply it to the world. Yet, all students are measured up against each other and graded the exact same way. One student can be passionate about the subject matter at hand and devote great amounts of time to the course, while another student may earn an equal or better grade by engaging in forms of cheating. Therefore, measuring one’s knowledge and potential for success by a number is inaccurate and a very poor reflection on the student’s effort and actual desire to learn.

Many students find it difficult to concentrate in a traditional classroom environment, resulting in distraction, fidgeting, and as a consequence, poor performance. When these symptoms are brought to the attention of a parent, the student may be evaluated by a doctor and diagnosed with an attention disorder. Many of these “disorders” are falsely diagnosed, resulting in the drugging of many children who simply don’t learn the same way as lawmakers and bureaucrats want them to. This is a drastically overlooked problem as many of these students are placed on medications that may influence the formation of their personality from when they are very young, damaging their emotional state and creating future problems. This is simply the public education system forcing its participants to conform to its style to an extreme extent. Rather than mandate that all kids learn in the same way, the government should fund a variety of learning environments that can appeal to multiple learning styles.

Students are often overworked as well, leaving them with little time to enjoy their short-lived youth. Schools cram students with unnecessarily large amounts of work, with little regard to mental health or stress. While homework itself is beneficial and serves a good purpose, excessive amounts do the opposite. Overburdening students with class work can cause them to dread participating in the class and kill the last bit of innate curiosity within them. Stress disorders, sleep deprivation, and lack of free time plague the modern youth. American education needs a major reform that appeals to the needs of a younger and more involved generation. The youth is the future of our nation, and it is important to provide them with the true meaning of knowledge and cultivate a passion for learning from a young age. 


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