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Q: Evid for/against increasing dysfunctionality on the part of educ institutions ( No Answer,   3 Comments )
Subject: Evid for/against increasing dysfunctionality on the part of educ institutions
Category: Reference, Education and News > Education
Asked by: jmmorris-ga
List Price: $150.00
Posted: 13 Sep 2006 20:26 PDT
Expires: 13 Oct 2006 20:26 PDT
Question ID: 765128
One argument put forward for lifelong learning is an alleged
"experience of increasing dysfunctionality on the part of mainstream
education and training institutions". Possible evidence that could
back this up includes:
evidence that lengthening schooling has turned students off schooling
or the more schooling someone has, the less likely they are to pursue
even furhter schooling; evidence of failure to adapt by schools (that
is related to a commonly agreed part of school's core mission);
inability by schools to adapt to the knowledge society. I'm interested
in an analysis that supports this thesis or one that attacks this
thesis states. Either way I would need references which would stand up
to exmination by others and could be cited. Thanks

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 16 Sep 2006 14:46 PDT
The phrase you quoted appears to come from an article on lifelong
learning, "The 'double face' of lifelong learning" by Alheit and

There are a number of articles in turn, that discuss this one, and
that take various points of view on the strengths and weaknesses of
the educational system.

Would a list of these article be helpful to you?  If so, how do you
suggest we proceed on your question?


Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 19 Sep 2006 17:33 PDT

After seeing an answer come and go here, I must admit, I'm not
entirely clear as to what you need at this point.

If can provide a bit more clarification, I'm certainly willing to give it a try.

Awaiting your response...

There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Evid for/against increasing dysfunctionality on the part of educ institution
From: funkywizard-ga on 15 Sep 2006 23:46 PDT
If you're interested in this subject, a good essay to read is "Against
School - How Education Cripples our Kids and Why" ( ). I'm not sure it qualifies as
evidence, but it's an interesting read.
Subject: Re: Evid for/against increasing dysfunctionality on the part of educ institution
From: jmmorris-ga on 18 Sep 2006 19:36 PDT
Request for Question Clarification by  pafalafa-ga  on 16 Sep 2006 14:46 PDT

The phrase you quoted appears to come from an article on lifelong
learning, "The 'double face' of lifelong learning" by Alheit and

There are a number of articles in turn, that discuss this one, and
that take various points of view on the strengths and weaknesses of
the educational system.

Would a list of these article be helpful to you?  If so, how do you
suggest we proceed on your question? YEP, PRECEISELY WHAT I'M LOOKING
Subject: Re: Evid for/against increasing dysfunctionality on the part of educ institution
From: keystroke-ga on 19 Sep 2006 18:55 PDT
I had the editors remove this answer:

Hello jmmmorris,

Thank you for your interesting question! Here is evidence supporting
the idea that the educational system is becoming increasingly


1. Too much homework!

Homework can help in the learning process, but there is a growing
group of scholars who believe that homework is detrimental to the
learning process and actually prevents kids from learning.

Author Nancy Kalish has recently published a work exploring this
subject called ""The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting
Our Children and What We Can Do About It."
"Kalish teamed with former legal aid attorney and mother of two Sara
Bennett to research and write the book, which argues that homework is
actually diminishing children's educational experience, turning kids
off learning, putting strains on families, turning students into
'homework potatoes' and stunting cognitive and social development."

Despite this, kids are doing more homework than ever, according to Time:

"An academic study found that whereas students ages 6 to 8 did an
average of 52 min. of homework a week in 1981, they were toiling 128
min. weekly by 1997."

" The onslaught comes despite the fact that an exhaustive review by
the nation's top homework scholar, Duke University's Harris Cooper,
concluded that homework does not measurably improve academic
achievement for kids in grade school. That's right: all the sweat and
tears do not make Johnny a better reader or mathematician.

? Too much homework brings diminishing returns. Cooper's analysis of
dozens of studies found that kids who do some homework in middle and
high school score somewhat better on standardized tests, but doing
more than 60 to 90 min. a night in middle school and more than 2 hr.
in high school is associated with, gulp, lower scores.

Teachers in many of the nations that outperform the U.S. on student
achievement tests--such as Japan, Denmark and the Czech Republic--tend
to assign less homework than American teachers, but instructors in
low-scoring countries like Greece, Thailand and Iran tend to pile it
on." (Time 7)


2. Smart students are just bored by school.

The most important goal for a student attending school is to graduate.
However, some schools don't do enough to prevent students from
dropping out. Many dropouts, contrary to popular belief, are bright
and most of them have passing grades upon dropout. Most of them, in
fact, just found the classes too "boring."  One study by Civic
Enterprises and the Gates Foundation has revealed that one in three of
American high schoolers will drop out of school at some point before
graduation. For Latinos and African-Americans, the rate is 50 percent.

"Underlying that conviction is perhaps the most surprising finding of
the Gates survey: just how few dropouts report being overwhelmed
academically. Fully 88% said they had passing grades in high school.
Asked to name the reasons they had left school, more respondents named
boredom than struggles with course work."
-- (Time 3) 

In fact, these students could be very bright and have the potential to
be wonderful students-- they just didn't have an interest in the
subjects they were being forced to learn.

"What happens in the classroom? All students must take an interest in
instructors' interest and the instructor has little interest in
students' interest. This is contrary to human nature.  What about
students who have strong interest that is different? They take no
interest in the instructor and are labeled failures and considered
outcast. Does, NOT taking an interest in instructors' interest mean
they can't learn? Our society seems to think so."

Sometimes, teachers don't care if gifted children aren't interested,
because they have to mainly focus on the kids who have not caught up
to the "smartest" ones.  Some even talk of a concept called
"plateauing": there is only so much that one kid can learn, and when
they've learned it, their interest and performance in school will
naturally level off. This runs counter to what many believe-- that the
more a child learns, the more they will want to learn.
"Q: The teacher tells me that I shouldn't worry about my accelerated
son's complaints of boredom and slipping grades, that he doesn't need
harder work, that he has "hit a plateau" and his learning pace has
leveled off, and the other kids will now "catch up."  What does this

"What is so frustrating is that many teachers view this as inevitable
and even desirable. I've had more than one teacher tell me to my face
that of course gifted kids are going to be bored in school, but that
real people have to do boring things all the time and it's especially
good for highly gifted kids to have the chance to learn to deal with
boredom while they are young because - being so bright - they'll spend
so much more time being bored than most people.

I didn't buy the idea then and I don't buy it now. The best colleges
and universities are searching for self-motivated learners, and
despair of finding them amid all the docile straight-A students.
Businesses and research facilities depend critically on the efforts of
the highly motivated few who have been learning at top speed since
childhood and keep right on learning as adults because it's as natural
and necessary as breathing. So why do schools act so complacent when
motivated kids suddenly lose interest in learning for its own sake?

The answer is simple: Smart, highly self-motivated kids are a hassle.
They frighten many teachers. They care about learning, not grades, so
they are hard to manipulate and control, and they and their parents
always want something more - or at least different - from their
schools and teachers. On the other hand, bored underachievers are no
problem at all: blame the kid, blame the parents, shake your head,
feel superior. Routine. No extra effort required.

Some years ago, in central Texas, I listened in horrified fascination
as a district gifted coordinator carefully explained the theory of
beneficial boredom to a regional gifted ed workshop full of teachers.
She made an analogy between educating an independent-minded gifted
student and breaking a spirited wild horse to saddle and bridle. The
horse would rather run free, so it fights hard, refusing to do what
the rider (teacher) wants, and is in fact unable to be a good riding
horse until it reaches the point of exhaustion and gives up/gives in
and submits to the will of its teacher.

Her theory was that that period of exhaustion, when the horse gives up
its dream of being free, is the plateau our kids have to hit before
they can acquire "the true freedom to learn successfully," which
begins - according to her - with discipline and submission to wiser

"In teacher-speak, "hitting a plateau" refers to a major drop in
effort and achievement in school for a previously motivated learner
who had been moving ahead at faster than one grade level per year. A
better term would be "hitting the wall." No matter how convenient this
might be for a teacher, it is not a good thing for the student. More
often than not, it is caused by a high degree of boredom, leading to
depression, anger, alienation, and underachievement."


3. School as a means of corporate control.

In some theories, schooling is only a means of control which grooms
workers for the wealthy in society. This goes well with the above
theory of "plateauing" and the attitudes of the system administrators
in the long quote above. "Breaking" a student like a wild horse will
contribute what to their learning process? It will tell them that
authority figures such as principals, teachers, and.... bosses, need
to be respected in society and listened to no matter what, at the
expense of the individual.

"Exams, class periods, tardiness, and clocks have nothing to do with
the learning process.
    This is something that every student knows in their gut. The
educational system's fascination with clocks and schedules and grades
exists for one reason: to break the wills of kids so that they can be
inserted into the modern workplace. Spending years of your young life
in flourescent-lit classrooms only prepares you for life in office

In fact, in the 1888 Senate committee discussing education: "The
committee's report stated, 'We believe that education is one of the
principal causes of discontent of late years manifesting itself among
the laboring classes.'" (5)

In addition, the Rockefeller Education Board, which funded the
creation of many public schools, had this to say about public schools'
educational mission:

"In our dreams...people yield themselves with perfect docility to our
molding hands. The present educational conventions [intellectual and
character education] fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition
we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We
shall not try to make these people or any of their children into
philosophers or men of learning or men of science. We have not to
raise up from among them authors, educators, poets or men of letters.
We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor
lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have
ample supply. The task we set before ourselves is very simple...we
will organize children...and teach them to do in a perfect way the
things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way." (5)

Here is a continuance of the "breaking the spirit of the horse" story from above.
"She [the school administrator] was careful to say that, with patience
and "kindness," this could all be done without "breaking the spirit"
of the horse (or the gifted child), but the teachers in the workshop -
who, by the way, really liked this presentation - seemed to discount
that part. The sense I had was that the teachers were especially
pleased by the idea that what they had been doing all along for and to
these kids was right and desirable precisely because it would "break
the spirit" of independent gifted learners and make them docile and
easier to manage. Clearly, they were pleased to have a rationale for
doing less rather than more for self-motivated kids. After all, if the
expert said that a few years of boredom would turn all these
rebellious independent learners into dutiful, obedient model students,
why should the teachers do more?"


4. College is not for everyone, and school tells you that it is.

Preparing students for college is important. But not all students will
go to college. In cases where students want to learn but don't want to
go to college, they can find that the educational system doesn't work
for them as it does for others.

"But what happens when a 17-year-old decides, rightly or wrongly, that
her road in life doesn't pass through college? Then the college-prep
exercise becomes a charade. At Shelbyville High School, as elsewhere,
the general-education model became an all-or-nothing game that left
far too many students with nothing."
-- (Time 3)

Some measures to prevent this have been enacted in South Carolina and
Florida, which have recently passed laws declaring that high school
students must declare majors as freshmen and take elective courses
related to their major throughout their high school career. (MTV News

However, most schools do little to nothing for these students. 


5. More time in school does not equal smarter kids.

As schools lengthen school days and push for year-round schooling,
students can be put off by the appearance of less free time and may
not learn as much. (Year-round schools are only for nine months at a
time, but two-week breaks are peppered throughout the school year.)

"Arguments for lengthening the school day and/or school year assume
that more time devoted to learning will yield proportionally higher
achievement scores. Research data reveal, however, that the
correlation between time and achievement is far slighter than expected
and suggest that the quality of time spent in learning is more
important than the quantity."

" Several years ago, many Texas districts adopted year-round
calendars, but nearly half switched back. School officials said the
program did not improve academic performance substantially, and they
were unable to win the cooperation of parents; it was simply too hard
to fight tradition." 


6. Tests do not equal learning.

Many politicians believe that if learning cannot be measured by a test
or certification, it did not take place. The insertion of more and
more tests and exams into the schooling process has created a
situation where teachers have to "teach to the test" in order to
ensure that students get good scores and the school stays accredited.
The importance placed on exam scores can take away from why students
are really there, which is to learn.

"How does that change the experience of school for kids? Does it send
them any kind of message if your teacher is spending all of his or her
time, or much of his or her time, doing practice exercises?

To me, one of the most frightening things about the preoccupation of
raising test scores is the message it sends to children about what's
important in school. Rather than trying to make the classroom a
learning environment where exciting new things are required, the
classroom becomes a drill factory, where relentless pressure, practice
on test items, may raise test scores -- but may end up having children
hate school."

"Political powers are implementing laws that require schools, staff
and students to focus on standardized testing. Test scores do not
motivate or inspire visions of being an achiever. This policy does
just the opposite by increasing boredom in the classroom. Boredom
increases the number of students that are in conflict with classroom
environments. In time, they GIVE UP."


7. Lack of a challenge.
"Forty percent of students lack basic reading skills, and their
academic performance is dismal compared with that of their foreign
counterparts. In response to this crisis, schools are
skilling-and-drilling their way "back to basics," moving toward
mechanical instruction methods that rely on line-by-line scripting for
teachers and endless multiple-choice testing. Consequently, kids
aren't learning how to think anymore - they're learning how to
memorize. This might be an ideal recipe for the future Babbitts of the
world, but it won't produce the kind of agile, analytical minds that
will lead the high tech global age."

The Wired writer goes on to say that schools could learn something
from the world of video games:

"Designers respond by making harder and more complex games that
require mastery of sophisticated worlds and as many as 50 to 100 hours
to complete. Schools, meanwhile, respond with more tests, more drills,
and more rigidity. They're in the cognitive-science dark ages."

The passing of the No Child Left Behind Act has added to these
theories. However, "forced" learning in and of itself is bound to


8. Class scheduling.

Classes of 50 minutes, ended by a bell, are highly regulated and don't
provide opportunities for students to immerse themselves in
complicated science experiments or lengthy class discussions.
Recently, ways of combating this have been introduced, but they face
much opposition. For example, block scheduling allows students to
attend about half the classes they would on a traditional day, but for
twice as long, alternating days with the other half of the classes in
the schedule. This can emanate more closely collegiate labs, in which
students can spend hours on a research project. When schools try to
convert to block scheduling, they often find vast opposition and most
school districts wouldn't rock the boat by trying.


9. Kids staying away from science.

Finally, the increasing debate on evolution found in many schools has
served to turn many students away from science, at a time when science
is an ever-increasing part of people's daily lives. Rather than
spending time thinking about whether evolution or intelligent design
are correct and why, students would prefer to avoid the topic of
science, and especially evolution, altogether. (NBC 1)

One professor theorizes that students are turning to more New Age-type
studies rather than science, and their enthusiasm and interest just
need to be shuffled back to science in creative ways rather than
quelling that interest completely as many teachers would do:

"I often encounter students who want to study topics that many of my
colleagues would find nonacademic, and certainly unscientific, such as
astrology, Reiki, channeling, Tarot, homeopathy, and ESP. What can an
instructor, working within the western scientific tradition, do with
such requests? One approach is to clearly explain to the student that
these topics "aren't science," and they are not going to learn
anything from researching them. I think that this gets a student
nowhere, and it is just such an attitude that makes many afraid to
pursue unconventional interests. This position also reinforces the
students' mistrust of science, professors, and academia, an attitude
that they will find no shortage of in the books written on the
unconventional subjects of their choice... These students were coming
to me with enormous enthusiasm for study and research. How could I
maneuver this interest into credible, academic work, which would also
appear credible and academic to my colleagues?... The basic idea is to
provide the student with a method to examine their subject as an
objective outsider, free of unavoidable misconceptions inherent in
exploring a subject from too close a perspective."


1. NBC News
"Turned off science"
By Sandra Lilley
News planning editor
June 3, 2005

2. Christian Science Monitor
"Dropout rates high, but fixes under way"
By Amanda Paulson  | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor 
March 3, 2006

3. Time
"Dropout Nation"
Posted Sunday, Apr. 9, 2006,9171,1181646,00.html

4. MTV News
"Think SATs Are Stressful? States Forcing High Schoolers To Declare Majors"
June 6, 2006

5. The Memory Hole

6. Salon
"Building a hate for learning"
by Rebecca Traister

7. Time
"The Myth About Homework"
by Claudia Willis
August 29, 2006,9171,1376208,00.html

Additional sources:

Search terms:
students turned off schooling
high dropout rates reasons
civic enterprises
exams effect children learning
class periods detrimental learning
education learning frustration
educational system failure america
students increasing boredom
lengthening schooling
year round school
students interest subject
smart kids bored by school

Books on the subject:

"The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and
What We Can Do About It" by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish

"The Underground History of American Education: A Schoolteacher's
Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling," by John
Taylor Gatto

"The Homework Myth" by Alfie Kohn

I hope that I have helped you with this thesis. If you need any
additional help or clarifications, let me know and I'll be glad to


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