Schools must go from Industrial Age to Information Age
Updated: October 10, 2012 3:56PM
I read last week that schools are considering requiring more nonfiction reading in English and language arts class.
I know some sticklers for tradition will find this hard to believe, but I think that is a great idea, despite the fact that my degree is in English and I specialized in American Literature.
My support for the move is not because I read about the issue in a nonfiction publication, or have had a career writing nonfiction. I think it is absolutely essential in today’s postmodern, Internet-based Information Age.
But why stop there? I don’t think increasing nonfiction reading in high school English or elementary school language arts classes goes far enough in the way of reform. It should be integrated in all classroom work.
Think about it. Schools still use an Industrial Age model to teach kids. You arrive at a certain time, you sit in a room in rows of assigned seats. You work on a subject or project until a bell rings, and then you take a break. It’s like working in a factory.
In the Information Age, perhaps it is time to change the school day.
One of my son’s high school teachers does something a bit different. He records his lectures or presentations on video to be viewed by the student at home. At school, the class works on what used to be called homework.
I don’t know if that’s the direction we need to go in, but it’s a start.
But back to teaching more nonfiction. We live in the Information Age. Access to information is immediate and constant in everyone’s life, especially with young people. Sure, the Internet and social media are mainly for entertainment, but eventually they provide information. A friend sees an interesting story or article on the Internet and shares it on Facebook or Twitter, or something goes viral.
The consumers of information need to be able to read, comprehend and evaluate the information bombarding them for so many sources. While the Internet has exponentially increased the amount of available information, not all of it is good. For every nugget of gold on the Web, there is a ton of junk.
Last week, the candidates for president debated. No matter whom you’re rooting for in that race, I think we can all agree that both candidates weren’t completely forthright and honest in their 90 minutes of debate.
Everyone needs to know how to research the information and evaluate what is true and what isn’t.
I studied fiction and love it. It teaches great truths about life. Everyone needs to know and appreciate it.
But without a good compass to guide us in today’s Information Age, we’ll be lost like a ship at sea without a rudder.