Students hunched over their desk, frantically scribbling away at their notes. At the head of the classroom, the teacher drones on about a concept they barely understand or will use again after the test. The clock ticks slowly but surely, counting down the seconds before the students can leave this prison, only to move on to the next one. Others stare vacantly at the teacher, their notes, the clock, but all never really hearing a word the teacher says. This is how the average American spends the first two decades of their lives.
And they have no choice, according to California’s Education Code Section 48320.
In the 1840s, Horace Mann, one of the first and most prominent education reformers in America, introduced the Prussian model of education to America, which is still used in public schools to this day.
Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, in a collaboration with Forbes magazine, compares the Prussian model to a factory.
Khan said, “Imagine an assembly line and there’s a kind of bucket along the assembly line. All the kids that are going to turn five in August are thrown in that bucket. The bucket will then move forward at a set pace.”
Khan describes similar “buckets” for those who are older, however, they are a couple of steps ahead of the “five-year-old bucket.”
“At any point along the assembly line, there is information being delivered. How much time the students have to absorb the information is fixed, and the variable is how well they get the information,” Khan said.
This method of education was useful for creating educated workers during the early 1900s, as it allowed everyone to be relatively well-educated at the same pace. The same education model is still used today, nearly 100 years later.
The use of the educational model from the Industrial Revolution to teach children who have information at their fingertips through the Internet is questionable.
At Carlmont, the curriculum is majorly determined by the district, taking into account teacher and department input. Subject Area Councils (SACs) meet once a month to discuss issues with the curriculum, such as changes in standards and textbooks. These councils include teachers from various high schools who work together to standardize the curriculum across the district.
According to Jennifer Cho, the instructional vice principal at Carlmont, the SACs are working on updating the curriculum to common core standards.
“In the past, English curriculum was centered around what students read,” Cho said. “Instead of making lessons based off of [the individual books], it’s now focused on the common core standards like analyzing a document. Teachers can bring in different types of readings to support that work. But the lessons aren’t necessarily structured around a work of art, it’s more structured around the standard.”