In Roger Schank’s Nov 2006 column “The 7th P” he adds “professors” to the previous “Six P’s of “evils” in education (Parents, Publishers, Press, Politicians, and Princeton 2 times) he has identified. He wrote:

I knew I quit the university for a reason. The other day I was reminded why. I was running one of my design meetings for my new learn-by-doing virtual high. We were working on a full year curriculum in engineering and with the help of Boeing we were focusing on aerospace. Normally I decide who goes to these design meetings but in this case Boeing brought its own engineers, which was fine, and a professor they knew. The professor was concerned that students arrived at his university not knowing enough of the basics and he was hoping that this meeting was about teaching math and science better so that his job would be easier when the students arrived on campus.

Of course, this was the exact opposite of what I was trying to do. The reason school is so bad is that everyone is learning stuff they hate just so some small percentage of students will be ready to take a university course of some sort. Everyone is bored to death so this guy’s life will be easier and he won’t have to teach the basics.

This idea is so ubiquitous that I never noticed it until I was far enough away. Universities dictate curricula to high schools to make professor’s lives easier. If everyone takes physics and calculus and most never use it, well, professors claim it was good for the students anyway when in fact it was only good for making sure professors didn’t have to teach it in college. As long as professors don’t have to teach the basics it is okay that high school students are forced to study stuff they will never use in their whole lives. We have ruined an entire generation of high school students who don’t like learning and think the subject matter is irrelevant because professors only want to teach the good stuff.

We sacrifice the joy of learning for an entire generation so professors can have an easier time teaching incoming students.

Roger is about to share a keynote address at SITE 2007. I’m thinking he is not going to pull any punches. I’ll be posting my notes shortly and am recording the session to hopefully podcast it, if Roger is agreeable.

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