Is this a solid proposal for a way forward?

Total number of votes: 1

0% Yes. Needs work and serious money to complete, but would deliver an interplanetary-age society.

100% No. Ideas that sound good rarely are. A white elephant the size of Ceres.

Jan 22, 17 / Aqu 22, 01 03:41 UTC

Optimal Education  

I am working on a theoretical education system that has the stated end-goals:

1) A person, on graduation, should be free to pursue their personally ideal career to the greatest depth they are capable of.

2) A person, on graduation, should have as wide a range of options as possible, with the ability to attain an acceptably great depth in each, should they change their minds for any reason.

3) A person should maintain freedom of choice by having direct access to such knowledge and skills that they never become obsolete and are never doomed to a road that will vanish.

4) A person, throughout life, should maintain as much of the aforementioned freedom as practical, people trapped in blind alleys should be extremely rare - instead, people should have the opportunity to be desired in some capacity for as long as possible, preferably for life.

Thus, there is no static definition of freedom, but rather a dynamic definition that aims to grant approximate equitability over a working lifetime over all the skills that can be learned. Freedom, therefore, includes freedom of choice that does not destroy future freedoms to choose.

The methodology is based loosely on Neo-Classical education (broad curriculum but deep), with enhanced streaming. My proposal is to have multiple classes at the same speed but with different offsets, and many streams.

The idea is that if the classes are at the wrong pace for you, go up or down gears until you find the correct pace. If a particular topic is too easy or hard, you can do the same for that topic alone, switching gears so that you get the best out of what you are taught, with no gaps.

This does mean that there can be no motion of a year, and therefore no value in end of year exams. You get there when you get there. Tests are via classwork.

However, work isn't the beginning or the end. It's just part of what is needed.

In terms of physical activity, free play is a form of learning and should be encouraged. Physical exercise has many direct and indirect beneficial effects on the brain, as well as helping reduce autoimmune diseases.

In terms of food, Jamie Oliver is basically correct that you need quality food to build a quality brain and to be assured of quality health. I'd probably look at the Mediterranean Diet and the foods in the so-called Blue Zones to develop a basic list of useful things to know there, but would want specialists in the microbiome and food science (not the same as dietary science, it's a branch of biochemistry).

The ideal should be to balance out the friendly bacteria to maximize benefits. Each of the thousands of identified bacteria do something specific that is good for you. If someone suffers asthma, you won't cure it by boosting the bacteria that help program the autoimmune system, but they stand a chance of being less penalized by it. Bacteria that help brain development obviously need boosting, unless there's valuable high risk of sickness at that time of year - in that case, you want all the body's bacteria set up to be protective.

People struggle and may need moving subjects or speeds without showing symptoms. However it does leave identifiable patterns in the brain if you look for them.

MRI scans are basically harmless, so the target would be to utilize this to detect potentially catastrophic effects.

a) One option is to provide 9.4T Structural MRI scans every two years. This will reveal, very clearly, parts of the brain that aren't developing as expected or have even atrophied against expectation. Because damage is keyed to specific demands in specific courses, it becomes possible to work around.

b) A second option is to use fMRI to detect hyperactive and hypoactive parts of the brain. Some hyperactivity in some areas is fine for a child, but much of this will indicate disruptions to the free flow of free learning that must dominate.

This part is expensive. Very. It's what is wanted down the line. If the school theory functions well the rest of the time, with little profit scooped off, it should be possible to buy the scanners in a decent time. Until then, buying machine time at suitable scanners as part of a neurological research project the school has hired researchers to carry out are about the limit. That's not cheap, so far less testing can be done.

Another long-term target is to start young. Phoneme libraries and perception of cadence start to be built by the foetus in the last trimester and the very low-level brain structures seem to be locked in place a couple of months after birth. To be not merely "fluent" but to actually have all of the very fine detail present in language, that is your window.

To be a polyglot, you must also start early or there's bleeding of words between languages. A child must be exposed to two additional languages by the time they're 6 months, preferably earlier. I'd advise languages that are unrelated, again to help prevent bleed-over.

Knowing two extra languages should protect mental health for an additional five years beyond that of a monoglot of the same age. It also seems to improve senses and sharpen awareness of the world.

Attention span approximates the Poisson distribution. The correct method is to put the vital information around the peak point. If the lecture is interesting, the tail won't fall so sharply, which is why you want to make sure that most present find it fascinating. In the tail area, you want classwork because that requires less attention.

Attention is a function of mental exhaustion, but is also a product of poor diet. You need relatively uniform energy and brain-building fats and proteins. Instead of one huge lunch, three smaller lunches (that a student can not be asked to miss) would seem sensible. Formula 1 drivers have special diets built to sustain energy evenly over two hours, these might want to be examined.

So you have two hours of formal schooling, a break for formal or freeform play, elevenses or whatever, brief rest, two more hours of formal schooling, etc, until the optimal time is reached. This will vary with age.

I call this style Neuro-Classical education, as all of the emphasis is on the brain and its structure, with relatively little on specific subjects. It is mostly assumed that providing an infrastructure where knowledge is craved will work out what it needs.

According to calculations on current schooling limitations and subtracting wasted time (including preventable illness, school discipline issues, questionable focus, no incentive to do well, lack of support for students who need help, etc), the average student would - under the above scheme - enter a degree program or equivalent at age 15, with an entire class dedicated to those who will enter university aged 12. Those who other schools would institutionalize as incapable would enter university just fine at 18, with many graduating. One society, tuned to needs.

Jan 22, 17 / Aqu 22, 01 14:37 UTC

I absolutely agree. Whether it's the thoughts I outlined or any other educational system, it is essential that there be a fallback position. My preference is to build in enough on learning how to learn to keep the fallback positions workable for as long as possible, but they should be there.

I am thinking about the issues with paying, in that better graduates benefit the whole of society and not just an individual or organization. The student is not, and never has been, the "customer", they are the product. If this is accepted, then education should be free at the point of delivery. This is only a quibble because it will be hard enough to reform education to be fit for a community reaching for the stars. Whatever the community eventually decides that means. Pressing for financial changes along the Scottish model as well might be too much.

Sep 21, 17 / Sco 12, 01 03:20 UTC

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