At graduation from high school, the student must be fully prepared to select his field of specialization and have the basics required to do well. He should be well rounded in general factual education. The actual curriculum should be established by the amount of real knowledge that can be absorbed during the school years. The following are suggestions that will be near the scope required.
Communication is an extremely important part of human life. Every word in the language is a symbol for a meaning in the mind. Encouraging the student to increase his vocabulary by reading a new word, then spelling it, speaking it, and using it in a meaningful way embeds that word in the student's mind. Composition, grammar and proper word usage should be constantly required from the student. The larger his vocabulary and the more crafted his sentences, the more reasoning and ideas that he can express (and the more he will understand). Vocabulary building is essential on every day of schooling, even if only a few minutes each day. These elements for building communication skills should not be relegated to a particular class but should be an element of every subject. Periodic reports on all subject matter will provide practice. Proper spelling, proper pronunciation, proper usage, and proper grammar should all be stressed in all classes no matter the subject matter. Proper respect for language should be taught. Teach any child to be skilled in communication and earn his undying gratitude every day of his life.
The first day in kindergarten, the brand new student should be shown a computer and taught how to find pictures of all of the animals and birds by the first letter of their names. By the first grade, they should be making sentences about those animals and birds, and using the spelling checker and the grammar checker to check their work. By the third grade they should be researching on-line hypertext and making reports in all of their classes.
The high school graduate should be capable of researching any subject in any field covered by his education and preparing a well-written grammatically correct report on the subject. He should also be able to deliver that report vocally and with confidence before any audience
Life- Learning should start early, on the subject of life. This study should be graduated and presented in part every year of schooling. The study of plants and animals can start the first day in kindergarten. The first studies of evolution should begin by the fourth grade. Students should begin molecular biology by the eighth grade. Vertebrate development should end the series. These classes need not be as rigorous as those for specialization in the field but should be sufficiently deep to develop in the student an awareness of the kinship of life and the way he fits in it.
The high school graduate should be well versed on the subject of life and its various forms. He should understand evolution from the molecular level to its effect on culture and the degradation caused by culture. He should be able to converse freely and confidently on his own position on the tree of life.
Matter and the universe -A model of the earth, sun and moon should be in the room of the first year in kindergarten, and each child should be taught the relationship and movement. The first grader should understand the mechanism of phases of the moon, and be able to watch a calender to predict their occurrence. The fourth grader should know the planets and their satellites in our solar system. By the sixth grade, the student should have some understanding of molecules and atoms and have a grasp of the size of our galaxy. Geography of the earth, the formation of continents, tectonic shift, meteorology, and archeology should be integrated into this subject matter.
The high school graduate should understand the basic structure of his universe, from subatomic particles to deep space and understand the mechanical systems at work.
Computers are the backbone of the entire education structure. Proficiency in their use will come naturally through experience. Students will also become proficient in the use of the World Wide Web by doing research projects. The teaching of the mechanics of computers, how they are constructed, the coding used within them, the various elements of programming should begin at about the 6th grade. In the higher grades the student should learn a programming language, preferably one that is close to the spoken language, such as Pascal or BASIC. Procedural thinking is taught in all of the science subjects, such as chemistry and physics. Still, nothing beats the intellectual order inherent in mathematics or a good programming language such as Pascal (which was designed as a teaching language and used in that mode for many years before it was implemented).
The high school graduate should have a good basic understanding of computers, computer systems, Boolean algebra, machine level programming, and high level programming. He should be proficient in one programming language.
Mathematics - should be integrated into the other studies and supplemented by math only sessions. The computer should be used to select problems and guide the student through them. Analysis programs in the hypertext teacher can feed back to the teacher the areas in which the student is having problems and needs personal attention.
The high school graduate should be proficient in mathematics through first year calculus.
Mechanics, electrical, chemical - studies of how things work and work together should start very early. Building blocks and erector sets in kindergarten (no more entertainment with paper dolls and glue) start little minds thinking about mechanical things. The elementary building sets gradually give way to several years of the study of mechanisms. Starting with levers and gears and gradually increasing in complexity through cams and lobes at about the fourth grade. All these things need hands-on teaching aids. In early high school, the student should start learning about steam, internal combustion, and jet engines. In the senior year, the final mechanical study should be in rocket propulsion. In parallel with the mechanical studies, the early student in about the third grade should start with a battery, a resister, a voltmeter and ohm's law. By graduation he should know how an electric motor works, a bit about power transmission and distribution and understand the principles of television and nuclear power generation. Physics and chemistry are integrated in the same manner along with these studies.
The high school graduate should understand how the things he will live with work. He will feel comfortable and confident in a high tech world. There is no need to bring him to a design or research level, but he should know by this time if he is interested in pursuing one of these topics as his career.
Human cultures, history and forms of government - These are the controversial subjects, the hot spots. Knowledge about these subjects is sorely needed. If the matter is taught as fact to gain knowledge then they should be covered thoroughly. If the history, for example, is going to be one written to meet social, cultural, or political goals, skipping it would be better. A lie is a lie no matter the reason spoken. If all human cultures are described and objectively compared, it becomes valuable knowledge, needed by everyone. Still, if every descriptive point is used to pound home the worthlessness and brutality of our current and historical culture, then skipping those classes is better. If the study of the various governments and their comparisons is factual, then it becomes valuable information for every student. If the descriptive terms are to be emotional, sneering, slurs against our form of government, then skip the teaching of the subject. If these classes are taught, and taught wrong, we have completely negated the value of this whole thing. Might as well go back to the high school graduate who can't read his own diploma. We may have discovered cause and effect by making those statements.
It is my suggestion that we do our best to put together a hypertext series that is scrupulously objective, and make those texts available in total to the public on an Internet link, so that nothing is hidden. Forbid any teacher from lecturing. If it is insisted that we let people teach these subjects, then I suggest that such lectures be recorded, digitized and sent to the hypertext teacher for software analysis for the key words that would show bias of the teacher.
We could lose the whole ball game right here, by allowing dogma and bigotry to destroy the objectivity.
Forbidden in public schools: the teaching of sports, art, drama, music, or philosophy of any sort. No fiction is to be taught anywhere in the educational system. If individuals feel the need, they may pursue such reading off school hours, and we encourage them to do so. Nevertheless, if the camel's nose gets under the edge of the tent, the whole animal is soon inside
Comments by readers and discussion
COMMENT: Only a fool would suggest that teachers should not lecture.
The change we want to make in this new culture founded on provable knowledge, is to remove our dependence on dogma. All of the teachers are intelligent people, they learned their lessons well. If their specialty was in a factual field, I am sure they learned that well and that is useful knowledge to bring to the students. The courses in education, however, are based on dogma. And they learned those well. All of the other courses are largely dogma. All of this dogma appears reasonable, everyone in school and in their peer group agrees with it and the dogma appeals to the instincts as well. To try to shift beliefs that are buried this deep is a real problem. But we must not carry this forward into generations to come. The teachers have been taught what to believe and it is only natural that they should wish to teach their students what to believe. We must avoid this at all costs. We want the students to be taught real knowledge. Let them synthesize their own beliefs. If we give them the right information, they'll come up with the right answers (but not necessarily the ones you like).
All of you agree that it was the right thing to do to remove religious dogma from the schools. Then why can't you see that it is just as reasonable to remove all other dogmas, and other forms of fiction, as well?
COMMENT: Why are you against the arts and sports in school? These have been traditional parts of education for centuries.
ANSWER: I think arts and sports are wonderful. I think they should be encouraged in every child. Every community should have a community center where such things are nurtured. But right now we have an educational crisis and a cultural crises. We need to take every nickel of our public money and invest it in an education for every child in our country. We need to make sure that every minute that we teach them, it is provable knowledge, there isn't time for anything else. In olden days they had to fill the student's time with something, all of the earth's knowledge was a one semester course. Not now! These students are now leaving high school destitute of knowledge. They need to learn things that are useful, not how to shoot a basket or play rap music. Anything that detracts or distracts must be removed from the schools.
COMMENT: I can't believe that you'd want to eliminate philosophy and literature from the schools.
ANSWER: Any of it that's fiction, you can bet I do. And if I could shut down television and comic books, I'd do it in a minute. I'd like to ask you how much philosophy and literature the modern high school graduate knows now! Talk to one of them and you'll see that I'm not asking you to eliminate much. But I am asking you to give these young people a fighting chance in a world suddenly complex, with too much real knowledge to ever cover in a lifetime, much less in preparatory school.
COMMENT: You seem to take a radical empiricist position that nothing is real unless scientifically provable.
ANSWER: Not at all, there is a lot of truth in the dogma now being taught as knowledge in our schools. Collective man tends to be wise. The problem is that the dogma contains both truth and falsehood and there is no way to determine which parts are true and which are false. From the cultural result of what we teach, one must assume that those parts which are false are also quite damaging.
However, there is more provable knowledge available than we can hope to cover in a lifetime and the amount is growing daily. So why not end the dogma, both religious and ideological, and start fresh on a firmer foundation to seek the real truth?
It will mean starting all over in such fields as psychology and strengthening the fields of subjects such as anthropology, but a lot of subject matter is archaic and will not fit in education for an intellectual culture.
COMMENT: The education you propose sounds very sterile and one dimensional, and is unlikely to gain many adherents unless you modify your position regarding the teaching of the arts, the humanities, literature, etc., which are essential components for educating the "whole" person.
ANSWER: How good are those "whole" people that you are turning out today? What are they good for? If they can't make their own way, what good is literature, art and humanities to them? The drop-out rate of today is extremely high, in spite of coddling. Why? Because they see no value in what they are being taught. Make education meaningful to them and they couldn't be run off with a baseball bat.
You speak of art, humanities and literature. Have you looked at any of the pictures from the Hubble? From the shuttle? When you look at a swelling cumulus, do you feel the dynamics in your heart? Have you seen the layout art for the Pentium? Do you understand what causes the ocean tide? Or why it rises under a hurricane? Do you look at a rock and feel its history in the earth? Do you know why mothers love their babies? Do you look at the sky on a dark night and understand what you see? Do you feel the majesty of the universe and the joy in being allowed a part in it? The beauty of this universe is limited only by our ability to learn and comprehend.
For some incredible reason it has become fashionable in our culture to consider anyone working with scientific knowledge to be some sort of half-animal, incapable of the "good" passions of man. Somehow a man becomes less of a man if he doesn't swoon over rap music, pot and some idiot's graffiti on a piece of canvas. I like the artistry of all man, but only art which requires skill, training, and dedication. When I see skill and knowledge in an artifact, I marvel at man's capability whether in a Rembrandt (a work by one man) or the impeller system in a modern jet engine (a polished masterpiece of precision surfaces in shining metal and the product of the cooperative creativity of thousands).
COMMENT: The result of what you propose would be a society like that portrayed in Fritz Lang's 1920's classic movie, "Metropolis." You ought to see it sometime. It portrays a society of heartless robots tending to the machines which are owned by the 'masters' of the society.
People ignorant in science, such as those who made this movie and who believe its message, have always maintained that science is a vampire sucking the blood of humanity. Somehow if knowledge comes from science it is not fit for the "civilized" man. If a deliberately destructive malcontent (such as Marx) mouths nonsense, he is somehow sanctified and followed.
Real knowledge takes effort to learn. One cannot learn it by merely reading a book. Many fear that they are incapable of learning it. These often seek other fields that do not require as much time and effort. They then justify their path as the "whole" education, or the "civilized" education. It always pained me to see the effete man wringing his hands in mock agony and giggling, "but I just can't understand calculus." It's far easier to deny, deride and demonize than to perform.
Let's review the place of art, sculpture, literature and music in education. There is little evidence in the 4.5 million years of man's development that any of these flowered before the advent of Homo sapiens sapiens, somewhat less than two hundred thousand years ago.
1. Art started with graffiti on the walls of caves. The outline of a hand traced in charcoal from an ancient fire is classical. Art probably lived through the ages as decorations on clothing, tools and weapons. Fine paintings came within the last few hundred years, when the materials became available (developed by scientists). These required great skill and experience with the materials in addition to the creativity in the artist.
Feces on a dinner plate, the American flag in a toilet, a crucifix submerged in a glass of urine are all now considered fine art by those who are "civilized." Oddly these perversions of art, all deliberately offensive to large cultural groups, are defended by men who claim the high ground on lacking bigotry and insist that they are the only ones who are sensitive and tolerant of others.
Meanwhile scientific artists design wondrous electronic and mechanical machines that allow all man to travel easier, see farther into space, enjoy wide communications with each other, grow copious food supplies, and live longer with better medical care. But because their art produces useful things, it is no longer art.
2. Ancient man saw the rock and carved from it an image of himself. Within the last 3000 or so years he uses marble and granite to carve wondrous likenesses. He used bronze foundries to make huge works of art.
The sculptor of today builds from tin, iron, toilets, and stacks of old automobiles. He prides himself on crude welding and finish. His mechanicals rarely work well. He is also considered by the "civilized" man to be an artist.
Meanwhile scientific sculptors refine the minerals from the ground, shape them with skill, talent and knowledge and build one of the most magnificent works of art the world has ever seen. It's called the shuttle.
Somehow the modern "sophisticated" man feels that art, no matter the skill and talent required for its production, or its finished beauty, is somehow distasteful if it also renders service. This is intellectual perversion at its worst.
3. Literature started with stories around the campfires. Such knowledge as they had, or thought they had in those days, was passed down from generation to generation from memory to memory, usually in the form of stories or chants. Religion and philosophy were also transmitted in the same way.
Modern literature is no more than an expansion of this ancient practice, but now in print or on a floppy disk. Man learns from his input, reading being one of the best input methods. The various forms of literature are interesting to read but an extremely poor way to gain knowledge. Fiction and philosophy should be avoided since any knowledge gained thereby is highly questionable. Literature makes good intellectual recreational material, as long as the reader is careful to discount what he reads.
4. Music began as evening entertainment around the campfire. Sometimes it was used as a background for chants. It hasn't really changed much since. It reached its peak in artistry a century ago. The dynamic and pitch range of the orchestras of that period filled the entire sound spectrum that man can encompass. The utilization of harmonics and variable cadence produced rich and interesting sound.
By contrast, modern music is monotone, fixed cadence and loud. Rap is a throwback, surely dating to pre-erectus times. Still, the "whole" modern man considers it art. And most modern music is synthetic, produced on machines designed by science.
COMMENT: There is much more to education than the understandings and skills necessary to perform on the job.
ANSWER: You are absolutely right. Education needs to cover far more than the essentials of existing. Only when man understands the universe and where and how he fits in it will he ever feel at ease and confident as he approaches life. We disagree only in educational content.
COMMENT:This - - leads me to bring up your argument about restricting education to the hard sciences. The weakness in that position is that it ignores the needs of children for aids to growth and maturity. Some of that process includes something extra beyond the study of facts. Receptors into the brain do include senses such as ordinary touch. Again, the missing element is interactive feedback.
ANSWER: It is totally beyond me why there is a widespread belief that truth cannot be taught with the same sensitivity, empathy, kindness, consideration, etc. as fiction, fantasy, opinion, conjecture and dogma.