, ,

Schools failed me einstein

In a 2006 Civic Enterprises “conducted a survey of 467 ethnically and racially diverse students aged 16 through 25 who had dropped out of public high schools in 25 different locations in large cities, suburbs and small towns.” Despite attending school 100 years after Einstein, there experience struck many similarities:

  • 47% of the students surveyed were bored with classes 
  • 81% felt “more relevant and engaging” curriculum is needed.

The educational experience Einstein endured runs parallel to the vast majority of schools today. Test scores are the primary indicator of success, students labeled as unruly or misbehaved often become ostracized by the adults in the building. In addition to solving problems of theoretical physics, Albert Einstein thought extensively about a range of topics, including education. 

Einstein articulates a core challenge underlying the structure of public education systems:

To me the worst thing seems to be for a school principally to work with methods of fear, force, and artificial authority. Such treatment destroys the sound sentiments, the sincerity, and the self-confidence of the pupil. It produces the submissive subject.

Einstein suggests great autonomy for teachers:

The teacher should be given extensive liberty in the selection of the material to be taught and the methods of teaching employed to him. For it is true also of him that pleasure in the shaping of his work is killed by force and exterior pressures.

at the same time limiting their ability to inflict punishment of students.

Give into the power of the teacher the fewest possible coercive measures, so that the only source of the pupils respect for the teacher is the human and intellectual qualities of the teacher.

Finally, a full paradigm for education is offered, with an explanation for the purpose of the school itself, qualities to develop in students and the connection between education and community well-being.

Sometimes one sees in the school simply the instrument for transferring a certain maximum quantity of knowledge to the growing generation. But that is not right. Knowledge is dead; the school, however, serves the living. It should develop in the young individuals those qualities and capabilities which are of value for the welfare of the commonwealth. But that does not mean that individuality should be destroyed and the individual become a mere tool of the community, like a bee or an ant. For a community of standardized individuals without personal originality and personal aims would be a poor community without possibilities for development. On the contrary, the aim must be the training of independently acting and thinking individuals, who, however, see in the service of the community their highest life problem.

SOURCE (block quotes): Einstein Ideas and Opinions