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Past Due: Project 180, Day 146

We build automobiles on the factory assembly line. It is efficient. It is effective. And it gets more so all the time, for with each analysis of the system, we find ways to streamline our approach, increasing productivity, decreasing cost. It works. Really well. It works because we are tweaking products on the production line. And over the last century, we have attempted to emulate this model of success in nearly every aspect of our culture, including school.

Maybe, especially school. As more students poured into the system through compulsory education, we had to find ways to educate the masses, and so the factory model seemed a good approach to maximize production and minimize cost. We presented a K-12 system where in each year new standard features would be added to the vehicles as they made their way down the thirteen-year production line.

  • Place student on conveyor belt at 8:20.
  • Allow subject-area specialists an hour to make uniform additions and modifications to thirty models.
  • Ring a bell signifying the move to another manufacturing department.
  • Allow five minutes for system to re-calibrate for new additions and modifications.
  • Ring bell. Begin next hour-long production. Repeat six times per day.
  • Shut down system for cooling and maintenance for a half-hour each midday.
  • Resume production.
  • Remove students from conveyor belt at 3:00.
  • Repeat five days per week.
  • Repeat 180 days per year.
  • Repeat for 13 years.
  • Apply to every school in the nation.

And voila, we have hundreds of shiny new stock cars ready to enter society.  But, of course, it’s not working. Oh, we cling to it as if it were, for it has remained essentially unchanged for a century.  But it’s a lie. We are not churning out uniform models, equally equipped for all roads and driving conditions. We are churning out vehicles with cheap paint jobs, so they look fresh with success at the end of the line. Turns out, we don’t need actual success. We only need the appearance of success. And thus we continue to cling to that which is efficient, but not effective. It is madness. And as we’ve reached an unprecedented level of standardized testing in the realm of education, the madness is out of control.  It is time for a new model. It is time to do away with the factory mentality. It is time to see education as an investment, not an expense. It is time to see students as people, not products. It’s time. It’s way past due.

Sorry for the vent this morning, all. Happy Monday.


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