Let’s Ditch One-Size-Fits-All Schooling

It is high time that we ditch standardized curricula and lists of stuff that all kids are forced to learn. I am a former k-12 teacher and I used to believe in these lists. Now as a college professor teaching in a College of Education, I no longer do.

Unfortunately, just about everyone else does.

Most developed countries have a national curriculum ensuring that every student leaves school having learned the same content. While the US has no national curriculum, we have what is effectively a list of national standards – the Common Core State Standards – whose stated purpose is to “ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life.” Additionally, all 50 US states have their own standardized state curriculum.

But is there really a list of stuff we can generate that all kids should be forced to learn, let alone one that is twelve years in duration?

I want to suggest several reasons for doubt.

Your List Won’t Match Your School’s List

For the record, I do think there are things that everyone should know. I just happen to believe that those things are needed because of their pervasiveness in human life, but it also means that people would likely learn them without force.

We all need to learn how to speak, but language is such an essential feature to good human functioning that we do it without being forced to.

There are scores of things we teach in schools that are not necessary for students to be successful.

That’s the way we learn a lot of things, like how to navigate the norms of our culture, how to operate common devices like televisions and computers, etc. And if schools were free to choose (or create) curriculum, it is doubtful that we’d need government to ensure that things like basic math and reading were there. In fact, it is likely that parents would simply demand that those things be included in the curricula.

And conversely, there are scores of things we teach in schools that I’d argue are not necessary for students to be successful in the world. In a book called The Math Myth: and Other STEM Delusions, Andrew Hacker argues that a good portion of the higher level math we are convinced students need turns out less than useful unless they are going into one of a handful of fields (mathematics professor being one).

I’d argue that a lot of what we teach in schools are this way. Imagine a list of everything you learned in your years of K-12 schooling. Now, think about all the skills and facts you’ve relied on in the past, say, two years. If you are like me (and I suspect most people are), there is probably only a small overlap.

If we then took the number of things on your school list that aren’t also on your life list and calculated the amount of school time that took up, I’d bet there are a good many years represented.

The things that constitute the bulk of my life are in fact things I learned after I was out of k-12.

I’m a good illustration of the point. I am now forty, meaning that I was educated during the time when computers were gaining steam but the internet wasn’t really a thing, and certainly not what it is today. I learned a lot of stuff in school I don’t remember at all. But what I did not learn anything about – because no one foresaw the need – was all the computer skills that my work (and personal life) revolves around: how to create and maintain a website, write emails, navigate the web, etc. Essentially, the things that constitute the bulk of my life are in fact things I learned after I was out of k-12.

The Problem with Standardized Curricula

One big problem with the idea of creating standardized curricula is that we simply don’t know what knowledge will and won’t be relevant in 12 years. There will be many false positives (things we think students will need to know but won’t), and false negatives (things we have no idea students will need to know).

Some believe that a national curriculum is necessary so that everyone is “on the same page.”

In a recent book arguing for a national curriculum, Ed Hirsch writes that, “The duty of schools is to transmit… shared knowledge of the shared language – to transmit the cultural commons of the nation, its public sphere.” As I argue in more detail here, this grossly misunderstands how culture works.

Culture is so much more diverse than that, especially in the information age.

An economy works not because everyone has the same knowledge and skills, but because we all have different knowledge and skills. Culture is similar. Hirsch envisions a world where we all read and do the same things and talk the same talk to the same types of people. Culture is so much more diverse than that, especially in the information age. I can choose what to read, who to talk to, what to do, etc. And when I need to know something, I can find that out when I need it (without having depended on a national curriculum).

But isn’t it better to learn it while you are in school so that you don’t have to relearn it later? This assumes the likelihood that I would learn something when I’m, say, 12 (before I had any occasion to see its importance) and retain it years later when I might happen to need it.

A stark reality check about this likelihood comes from the hit game show Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? which aired from 2007 to 2015. The show consisted of asking contestants a series of questions taken from standard first-through-fifth grade textbooks. During that time, there were only two contestants who answered enough questions (six) to win the grand prize. Yet these were all things we learned between first and fifth grade!

Formal curricula are fine, but we need to recognize that they consist of one group’s guess at what people will need to know a decade from now and what, of that, they will likely retain when needed. My advice is to allow each school to take their own guess, either by allowing them to design their own curriculum or sign on to one of a number of possible curricula (or even choose not to have a set curriculum at all). It just isn’t likely that there really is one list of stuff that everyone should be forced to know.

Lems Boulder Boots Review

Those who have read this blog before know we hike often. I usually hike in my Lems Primal 2 shoes. I am not much of a boot person but Lems gave me a pair of their Boulder Boots to try out. The boots were not only used them for hiking but for outdoor work as well. This review will go over these Lems boots and how they have held up.

Lems boulder boots black, boot, boulder, minimalist hiking bootFirst Off

Who is Lems? They are essentially and 8 person company. Lems make minimalist shoes and boots and are becoming quite popular. Where are Lems shoes made? They are American run and family owned company based out of Boulder Colorado. Lems has carved a substantial niche out for themselves in the minimalist footwear community. Building up a brand that is known for quality, versatility, and adaptability to what their customers want.

The Boulder boot they sent me was the Lems Boulder Boot Black. They came in a Lems shoe box and looked great out of the box.

The Specs are as follows.

WATERPROOFING  None

  • LAST      Lems Natural-Shape™ Last
  • UPPER   1200 denier nylon – *VEGAN
  • LINING   100% cotton
  • OUTSOLE   9.0mm LemsRubber™ (air-injection rubber)
  • FOOTBED   3.0mm removable PU insole
  • INSOLE BOARD   1.0mm PU strobel (lined with fabric on top)
  • STACK HEIGHT   10.0mm (not including 3.0mm footbed)
  • DROP   0.0mm (Zero-Drop)
  • WEIGHT   9.9oz/280g (sz 43)
  • PROVIDED WITH 2 PARIS OF LACES black + red

 

Without Further delay, the review.

The Great

While I don’t like to wear boots much, I don’t like the ankle support, these boots are great looking and comfortable. These LemsLems boulder boots black, boot, boulder, minimalist hiking boot boots are zero drop heel to toe and have a relatively small outsole at just 9.00mm. They have good ground feel and allow the toes to splay.

They are water resistant. This is great. Here in NC it rains often and in the mountains it is usually damp. Not walking around with soggy socks or feet is wonderful. The Army drilled into me to not let your feet get wet and these boots do a good job at that. Nobody likes hiking with a baby carrier on their back and wet feet. It makes for a bad hike and a long day.

The Good

These are one of the few truly minimalist boots on the market. This makes them good to begin with. On top of this, The boulder boots come with removable insoles for even better ground feel. I prefer to have the insole out. I have been wearing minimalist shoes for awhile and it is much more comfortable for me.

These black boulder boots are tough. I have hiked through the Great Smoky Mountains, Forested mountains in New Mexico, Desert in New Mexico, Arkansas Ozarks, and my brother in law has worked in them. They have held up great. The only thing I have had to do is give them a wash. No rips, tears, or any other destruction has taken place. The soles have held up nicely, showing minimal wear after spending a few weeks hiking in the Mountains.

These would make a great minimalist snow boot for both men and women. With it being water resistant and relatively warm, these boots would perform great in the winter.

The tread is great on dry rocks, sand, trails, and more.

These can roll up small or fold flat to fit in your pack for an extra pair of footwear on your hike. They also dry relatively quickly if you get them wet crossing a stream or river.

Having 2 sets of laces has also been nice.

The Bad

What I don’t like about these Boulder boots is the lip. It looks good but while hiking in the mountains and walking over logs, it gets caught easily. Is this a deal breaker? No. It is just a minor annoyance and something I need to be aware of while I am hiking.

This is a personal one, I don’t like the ankle support. My brother-in-law loves it. For those who like the ankle support, they will love this boot. I have hiked so long in shoes that not having ankle support is a preference for me.

The tread doesn’t do so good on wet rock. To be fair, not many pieces of footwear do good on wet rock. I learned this lesson the Lems boulder boots black, boot, boulder, minimalist hiking boothard way a few years ago when hoping across a stream and I slipped on the rock and injured my ankle. This happened while wearing regular hiking boots. Not minimalist hiking boots. This didn’t happen with Lems and admittedly, these boots do better than traditional shoes on wet rock but not as good as traditional hiking boots.

Conclusion

Would I recommend them? Heck yes. The negatives I listed were all pretty minor in my estimation and definitely are not deal breakers. I prefer to wear my Lems Primal 2’s hiking in the summer…. unless it rains. If it is wet outside, or in the winter time, I will definitely be using these to hike with my wife and 2 kids. Lems Boulder Boots are great for hiking, working, and just casual walking around. Try them out!