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August 06, 2020

Defunding Teachers for Better Education and More Equal Educational Opportunity

Like policing, schooling is essential and must be available to all. Some of what police do and the funds which pay for that work, can be better assigned to other professionals. Much of what teachers do today (or used to do before the pandemic) can and should be done by others. A silver lining of the pandemic may be to accelerate a transition to better schooling than our children were getting before the virus blew out of the bat cave.

K-12 schools, when they’re open, perform five basic functions: instruction, practice, testing, daycare, and more-or-less supervised socialization. Public schools have also become a place where children are fed who might not receive adequate nutrition at home and where some signs of child abuse or neglect can be spotted.

In-person instruction in most K-12 subjects is obsolete. If lecturing or storytelling is needed, as it often is, that is better done by video featuring the most-gifted presenters and actors. Animation makes much better illustrations than drawing on a whiteboard. Carefully-crafted educational scripts can allow both exploration and re-covering topics a student is having trouble grasping. Interacting with a computer is, itself a skill, which will help today’s students at-least until the successor to computers is invented (as it surely will be).

The schools of the future will be places where students have great broadband capability, all kinds of av equipment, and, regardless of zip code, instruction by the best presenters in the world in a context as compelling as the best games the best gamers can make. The geniuses who make this wonderful content and keep it up to date will be very well paid; they won’t belong to the teachers’ unions; and the cost of production will be spread over the tens of millions of students who benefit from it.  Depending on grade level, two to five hours of the school day should be online.

There do need to be monitors while the kids are watching and interacting with the content (otherwise they might not watch or interact); but these people don’t have to be content experts; they will be more like very well-trained day care workers. If shutdowns of schools are necessary in the future, the content will be consumable at home with mom or dad or a pod doing the monitoring.

Much practice can also be done online. However, students benefit both from well-moderated group discussion as well as very individualized clarification of points they just don’t grasp initially They do benefit from hands-on labs. These are jobs which do benefit from human teachers who are both good with kids and familiar with the content. These teachers should be well-educated and well-paid. They should NOT be protected from firing by their union when they prove incompetent or unwilling any more than brutal or incompetent police should be protected.  Children probably don’t need to be with the teachers providing moderation, clarification, and hands-on experience for more than a couple of hours of each school day.

Testing require only monitors and computers. The testing is essential, however. It provides feedback for tailoring both practice and instruction to the individual students, vocational guidance, and a measure of how effective the instructional material and the teachers supervising practice are.

Daycare and supervised socialization occur together whether at mealtime, sports, or what used to be called recess. Coaches are needed for sports and do need special skills. Again video can teach and illustrate athletics but supervised practice is even more important for muscular skills than for intellectual ones.

On the average, children will only be with content experts (LIVE teachers, coaches, arts instructors) three hours or so every school day. They will still be with adults most of the rest of the time, but at least half the time the adults will be monitors and skilled daycare workers. We will only need half as many teachers per student as we do today; but, thanks to excellent content available in every school, the students will get a better education.

Hiring fewer teachers can mean both more selectivity and higher pay for people who can make an enormous difference in children’s lives.

Note that daycare starting at almost any age fits into this model. For the very young, there’s more care than teaching; but some teaching should start very early. Public, charter, parochial, and private schools will all be able to use the excellent course material at a very reasonable price per student. Assuming broadband availability, the instructional material will also be available for home-schooling when parents feel that’s needed or desirable – or when schools are closed. We will still have to be pay more for teachers and monitors to work in dangerous neighborhoods – and should pay more. But the instruction available in urban and rural depressed area will be as good as it is anywhere else; it will offer a path from poverty.

See also: Defund Teachers During the Pandemic

              Should K-12 Schools Reopen?

              Covid Forces Vermont to Split Childcare from Teaching

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