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Eight Things That Can Be Done

While much of this book is about the role that technology can play in revamping the schools, the ideas here
do not depend on computers. The schools of tomorrow, with or without new technologies, can improve by
following some simple suggestions this book brings out:
1. Doing, not reviewing
Today's schools are dominated by the need to assess student performance. Test scores and grades
measure the wrong things and thus cause the wrong things to be taught. What is important is achievement. Good
software should allow its users to achieve goals that are worth achieving. Eliminate test scores and grades, and
the endless repetitive reviewing and cramming for tests that goes with it, and replace this with levels of
achievement that are objective, relevant, and highly motivating. This can be done with good software, but it could
also be done in today's classroom.
2. Possible answers, not right answers
Today's schools, and the culture in which those schools live, are obsessed with the accumulation of facts.
We have so many lists of what everyone should know that we have succeeded in convincing people they are
ignorant, but to what end? Real measures of knowledge are not fact-based at all. Experts may not be able to
recite facts, but they usually can do things that only experts do. Facts are only useful when they help one
accomplish some goals; they should not be learned out of context. Knowledge should be taught when it is helpful
for accomplishing some goal. There should be less emphasis on right answers and more discussion of open
questions, for which no answers are known.
3. Fun, not discipline
Many parents and educators have confused instruction with discipline. Just because there is little discipline
in today's schools, it does not follow that when there was discipline, there was also a great deal of learning. The
two have little to do with each other. Learning is best accomplished by children when what they are learning
interests them, relates to their goals and is fun.
There is no reason why we cannot make everything in school enjoyable. Discipline must be self-imposed to
be of any real use, and it will be self-imposed by any child who cares about the goal he is trying to accomplish.
Children are quite apt learners when they really want to know something. We must create environments in which
children are curious.
4. Interest groups, not age groups
Today's schools are organized by age groups in grades. Why? Because they always have been. This causes
us to lose the use of some available teachers, namely the other, more experienced, children. Children can learn
from each other and will do better if they were organized by similar interests instead of similar ages. We must
eliminate the concept of first grade, etc., and replace it with achievements within interest-based groupings. We
must learn to ask what children have learned to do, not what grade they are in.
5. Visible projects, not invisible rejects
Today's schools emphasize the production of good scores. We must abandon entirely the whole notion of
scores, grades, exams, and all other competitive measures. Children need to feel a sense of accomplishment, to
show others what they have produced. We must enable them to produce. What they produce ought to be visible,
real accomplishments, skills or actual work products, that can be shown off, not as objects in a competition, but
as a show of pride in what they can do.
6. Hearing and needing, not listening and reading

Today's schools are essentially passive experiences. Teachers teach and children listen. Learning is better
when it is active not passive. Instruction should only occur when children express the desire to know. Every time
a teacher asks children to listen they ought to ask themselves if they believe the children genuinely want to hear
what they are saying. If the students don't want to hear it, they won't hear it, no matter how much we threaten
7. Motivation, not resignation
Children are discouraged from pursuing their own interests in school. The job of a teacher is to expand the
horizons of the student, to cause the student to have more interests not less. It is a good idea to allow teachers to
advertise different possibilities and let teachers teach what they know best in response to the expressed interests
of the children. Motivation is a terrible thing to waste. Everyone doesn't have to learn the same stuff. No more
standard curricula!
8. Fun fun fun
Learning is fun and school isn't. Making school fun doesn't mean having the teacher dress up in a clown suit,
or making teaching into Jeopardy. It does mean making learning fun in school in the same way that it is fun out of
This list does not detail everything that could be done to fix education. Nevertheless, it gives an idea of
where to begin. High-quality software could help make these changes possible.

The Student Bill of Rights

School should not be a place where teachers and administrators make students jump through arbitrary
hoops, memorizing things that could not possibly matter in real life. How does a student tell the real things to be
worked on, the stuff that matters, from the junk, the stuff that is part of the curriculum because no one ever
thought about it much, or the stuff that is part of the curriculum to help make teachers' lives simpler?
One way to improve matters is to allow students to have some say in their own education. I do not mean by
this that students should be part of curriculum committees. Students are not prepared to determine what other
kids should know any more than teachers, administrators, book publishers or cultural literacy advocates. But
students can determine what interests them, and they should have the right to complain when outmoded
teaching methods are in use.
For the use of students and teachers everywhere, and by way of summing up the real issues in education, I
present the Student's Bill of Rights:
1. Testing : No student should have to take a multiple-choice or fill-in-the-blank test.
2. Real-Life Skills: No student should be have to learn something that fails to relate to a skill that is likely to
be required in life after school.
3. Memorization: No student should be required to memorize any information that is likely to be forgotten in
six months.
4. Clarity of Goals: No student should be required to take a course, the results of which are not directly
related to a goal held by the student, nor to engage in an activity without knowing what he can expect to gain
from that activity.
5. Passivity: No student should be required to spend time passively watching or listening to anything unless
there is a longer period of time devoted to allowing the student to participate in a corresponding active activity.
6. Arbitrary Standards: No student should be required to prepare his work in ways that are arbitrary or to
jump through arbitrary hoops defined only by a particular teacher and not by the society at large.
7. Mastery: No student should be required to continue to study something he has already mastered.

8. Discovery: No student should be asked to learn anything unless there is the possibility of his being able to
experiment in school with what he has learned.
9. Defined Curriculum: No student should be barred from engaging in activities that interest him within the
framework of school because of breadth requirements imposed by the curriculum.
10. Freedom Of Thought: No student should be placed in a position of having to air his views on a subject if
the opposing point of view is not presented and equally represented.