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We, the people, the teachers and parents, the brothers and sisters, the adults and the children, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, and ensure domestic tranquility, require an educational system that allows our children to learn not simply facts, figures, skills, and mechanics of life, but to explore their own potentials and find what makes them unique, following courses of study designed specifically for, and by, each student. In each person’s uniqueness is the potential for contributions unimagined by anyone else. Our children need to be prepared not for a life of drudgery defined by empty but exhausting minutes of their lives exchanged for money, but for life defined only by the limits of their own imaginations and abilities. Such an educational system must be the goal. As John Dewey told us, “What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy. ”

How we reach that goal is open to discussion.

In this document, we will make suggestions that we believe will move us closer to that goal.

But, a larger goal is the society in which a school system such as we advocate can serve to help us create The Ideal World. This is a world in which no one is homeless, there is no poverty, everyone has enough to eat, the best medical care is available to everyone, and, more importantly, the citizens are truly free to contribute in a way that is satisfying, creative, and expansive .

This is not a Socialist society. It is Human Centered Capitalism. It’s a world in which there is a solid foundation on which to build, instead of a safety through which to slip.

These ideas are just that: Ideas. Ideas are always open to attack. We recognize there are many other ways to reach the goal. We are certainly willing to consider alternatives. We hope you will consider ours.

There are approximately 74 million children in America.

There are approximately 100 million parents. There are approximately 3.7 million K-12 teachers. Our plan is to bring benefits to all of them.

The Yang Gang K – 12 Educational Plan

Article 1: School districts will eliminate grade-levels. Students will pursue their interests and master the skills needed to advance their interests. They will move up in the same way they are accustomed to progressing in video games. When they master one level, they advance to the next. They move as quickly or as slowly as their abilities allow. Their age is as irrelevant to their education as it is to their ability to play a video game. I’m certain most 10 year olds could beat me in Mario Brothers. They have mastered it; I have not.

Students are not in a race to the finish line, because there is no finish line. Learning is a lifelong activity.

Article 2: Learning must be fun. Play is the most important part of childhood. Through play, children explore their identities, create social bonds, and learn how to interact with the rest of the world. This isn’t simply a 15 minute recess a couple of times a day. This is directed, organize play time. Research indicates this is the most powerful form of learning at young ages.

A great deal of research has concluded that play-based learning is genuinely and positively [useful in] student learning and development. Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, a well-known child development expert in the Department of Psychology at Temple University and a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institutionargues that humans learn best when at least one of these four pillars are present:

  1. Individuals take an active role in the learning environment
  2. They are engaged
  3. Information is meaningful
  4. Learners interact in a social context

The information can be found here.

Article 3: Learning will be, to the greatest extent possible, Project Based Learning.
The objective of Project Based Learning is that students pursue their interests through creating solutions to problems that can be presented to others. The results are greater long term retention of information, the reason for learning becomes immediately clear to students, since they are learning what they choose to learn to complete their projects, and student engagement is increased. Some, but by no means all, of the advantages are the following:

Researchers have identified several components that are critical to successful PBL (Barron & Darling-Hammond, 2008; Ertmer & Simons, 2005Mergendoller & Thomas, 2005Hung, 2008). While project-based learning has been criticized in the past for not being rigorous enough, the following features will greatly improve the chances of a project’s success.

  1. A realistic problem or project that aligns with students’ skills and interests, and requires learning clearly defined content and skills (e.g., using rubrics, or exemplars from local professionals and students).
  2. Structured group work with groups of three to four students, with diverse skill levels and interdependent roles; team rewards; and individual accountability, based on student growth.
  3. Multi-faceted assessment, with multiple opportunities for students to receive feedback and revise their work (e.g., benchmarks, reflective activities); multiple learning outcomes (e.g., problem-solving, content, collaboration); and presentations that encourage participation and signal social value (e.g. exhibitions, portfolios, performances, reports).
  4. Participation in a professional learning network, including collaborating and reflecting upon PBL experiences in the classroom with colleagues, and courses in inquiry-based teaching methods.

Students will present their work to the selected audience. Their pride in their accomplishments will be increased, and their desire to learn will be enhanced.

Article 4: The Home Environment will be improved to allow for the best outcomes. Most studies tell us now that academic outcomes are more related to factors outside of teacher control, and that the biggest factor is the home from which the students come. There is no Silver Bullet to make all homes the ideal environments for raising children. There is, however, one thing that can be done to help. We can end their struggles for survival. The tension caused by wondering whether the family is going to make rent, keep the lights on, or feed and clothe the children is sufficient to cause any number of unnecessary problems for families. Domestic violence rises as survival is threatened. Suicide rates and drug overdoses are at an all time high, and the life expectancy in America has actually dropped in the last 3 years. While we can’t cure all these problems, we can help to reduce them by ensuring that all families have enough money to survive. Children benefit from stable home lives. These facts have been known for more than 50 years, at least since 1966 when we had the James Coleman Equality of Educational Opportunity (EEO) study.

This is why a Freedom Dividend, of $1000 a month for every adult 18 and over, must be implemented. If we want to improve educational outcomes, we need to reduce poverty.

For more information, spend some time on the Yang site. It’s here.

Article 5: All learning is individualized. Through technology, we now have the means to ensure that students have the resources to learn what they want to learn, at the pace at which they can learn it. There are on demand videos readily available, even now, for students to learn any skill needed in order to complete the projects they choose to do. Software, perhaps even in the form of video games, can be created that will engage children in interesting activities that teach them what they need to learn.

Classrooms need to be equipped with computers and other technology for students to use to learn what they need to complete their projects. The technology must be updated as necessary to keep it both functional and cutting edge.

Article 6: Teachers will be paid a living wage for the area in which they teach. If a teacher needs a second job in order to make ends meet, that teacher’s effectiveness drops quickly. The teacher’s attention is distracted from the students because when the teacher’s day is over, it is also just beginning for the second job. This creates exhaustion and the inability to function at one’s best. This means a teacher in San Francisco, where the cost of living is exceptionally high, will make more than a teacher in a city where the cost of living is lower. To attract and retain teachers, it’s essential that the pay is sufficient to attract the best and brightest.

Article 7: High stakes testing is eliminated. Tests are used only to determine mastery of a subject. They are not used to determine the quality of a teacher, or to decide anything about the students’ futures. Students are in charge of their own learning, without regard to test scores.

This is, by no means, an exhaustive list of all the changes we need to make in order to return education to what it is intended to be. These are a few preliminary ideas. They are all open to change based upon data that emerges. Other ideas are welcomed.

We must have an educated populace in order to ensure that America’s Experiment in Democracy can succeed. An uneducated citizenry can solve no problems. We must be able to discuss alternatives to find the best ways to reach our goals.

A government based in reality, and not simple adherence to ideology, is one that can function most effectively. An educated population is one that is adept at the fact checking that has become an essential part of our lives. Such a population is not easily deceived. It may be divided on solutions to the problems it faces, but it will be united on what the facts are. This is the ultimate goal of public education.

This is the time to reform not only the schools, but the world in which they function. We have taken 200,000 years to reach this pinnacle of humanity. We now have the resources to feed, clothe, shelter, and medically extend the lives of all human beings. Many sorts of labor will become unnecessary, and we can begin to pursue our interests and passions. We can help humanity to improve itself by recognizing the unique value of each individual. When we shed the scarcity based economy, and replace it with a post scarcity philosophy, we will improve the lives of all of our people. This must be our goal. These are a few steps we can take to reach it. When we all work together, more steps, and, quite probably, better ones may be found. Let’s begin that work today, while we still have time.