The New Machine

At the outset of the Industrial Revolution, the education system was efficient and practical.  The industries needed huge numbers of people to come in, work for cheap, and follow directions.  No questions, no excuses, no innovation.  I call this The Old Machine, and these people were the cogs that made it run.  The education system was efficient because it taught people to memorize information, follow instructions, and speak when spoken to.  It manufactured cogs.

But The Old Machine is rusted and mostly abandoned.  This is a good thing, if we embrace it.

The New Machine is decentralized, mobile, and flexible.  It doesn’t need cogs, it needs innovative minds.  And it rewards these innovative minds graciously.  The New Machine replaced inefficient newspapers with millions of adaptive blogs.  It replaced TV with Hulu.  Some large companies get it (Google) and others don’t (Microsoft).  The old machines are wondering why they are losing value when they didn’t change.  Of course that’s the problem.

If you don’t adapt, you’ll lose.  It’s evolution on a smaller scale.  The education system has realized they are losing, but their answer is to try harder.  Stuff more useless information into children’s minds, cancel music classes to make room and budget for more math classes, focus more time on passing standardized tests.  It’s time to quit working harder, and start working smarter.  It’s time to adapt to The New Machine.

7 Responses to The New Machine

  1. […] …in fact it’s alive and well.  The internet, cheap computers, fast bandwidth, open-source software, and generous people have enabled nearly everyone to participate in this new economy.  But that doesn’t mean everyone should.  If you’re not innovating, if you’re not bringing something new to the game, then you might be disappointed participating in The New Machine. […]

  2. Shawn says:

    I thought I had gone back and read all your earliest posts but I did not get back this far.

    School….My kids are almost 10 and 12. We live where we do and provide what we do essentially for what we beleive(d) to be their well being.

    We have changed our course of action drastically in the last year. I often wonder about the deleterious effects of the mind numbing (public)education that my child are receiving and the material expectatations that they cant help but acquire by shoulder bumping with this area’s “elite”.

    I would be curious to hear your thoughts and plans concerning your childeren’s integration into such a world. I would assume your geographical placement precluded such a plan.

    • Oh man, this is a hot topic in the BNL household lately. My wife and I discuss it several times a week. Let me preface my response by saying that we’re still trying to figure out what’s best for our kids when it comes to formal education.

      A few weeks ago we had a parent/teacher conference with my 4-year old son’s teacher. She pointed out that he was doing very well in almost all areas, except that he didn’t like to sit around during “circle time” where they sit around and listen to the teacher read, and even went as far as being disruptive by getting up and going to play with things.

      At this point I thought to myself – what kind of 4-year old wants to sit quietly for 20 straight minutes listening to someone else talk? Not a 4-year old I raise!

      I want my kids to be curious, adventurous, unique, and disruptive. The plutocracy does not. They want kids who will sit still and take directions. As written in this post (one of my few old posts that I kept around) I see a shift towards the end of this industrial revolution that will no longer value people as cogs.

      So… 2 weeks ago we switched my son to a Montessori school, and he seems to be doing well. They encourage the kids to explore, and they teach them what they want to be taught. This is how we do it at home too, so it’s a consistent style.

      We don’t know what we’re going to do in the future. Financially, I would certainly prefer a free public education. But not at the expense of my kids’ future happiness. We are supposedly in a very good school district, but we have a few years to decide whether we’ll use it. My wife has also started looking into home-schooling, but I just don’t know enough about it yet to know whether I want to do that. My concerns with that are primarily around social growth for my kids, and pressure it would put on my wife and I. But I haven’t ruled it out…

      In the end, I think the way my wife and I teach our kids and encourage them to learn by exploration, adventure and curiosity will be what helps them in life, more so than any beneficial or deleterious effects of their formal education. At least I hope so…

      Here’s a short and true antidote that will give you some idea of my overall perspective:

      Last week my wife was talking to my mom, and she told him that we had switched him to a Montessori school and gave her our reasons. My mom asked her how my son will ever learn to listen to sit still, pay attention, and follow the rules if we don’t teach him now. My response was “I hope he never learns those silly values!” My mom went on to tell her how my nephew was having similar issues, but after a few months of school the problem was “fixed.” I thought to myself “The poor guy, he got ‘fixed’ ”

      Then my wife (not knowing better) went on to tell my mom how she was also looking into homeschooling. Shocked, my mom asked how he would ever get into college and get a job (she actually asked how he would ever get a job like the one I had at my old company!). My response: “I hope he never gets a job like that! I hope he is too busy doing important work, saving the world, and creating things. I hope he is having too much fun to get a job!”

      I just don’t buy into the puritanical BS that hard work is a virtue, and jobs are sacred. I can think of 1000 ways to make money and reduce spending such that working for someone else is not required. I won’t prevent my kids’ from that life if they want it, but I also won’t push them in that direction.

      So… Shawn… I know we share a lot of common experiences and opinions, I’d be interested in your thoughts on all this.

  3. Shawn says:

    emailed you
    it got long….still didn’t say it all

  4. Thegoblinchief says:

    Formerly an occasional reader, but now I’m digging into your complete archives.

    As a homeschooling parent, I think the whole “social growth” concern is inflated. Maybe it’s because I have 3 kids, and maybe because the two oldest ones did attend regular school for a couple years, but they have no problem whatsoever socializing. In the summer, they pick up friends like no one’s business. During the conventional school year, I try to get to a park as schools let out when the weather is nice, just so they get some extra socialization. There’s no need for them to be locked in a room to socialize.

    Plus, this way kids befriend based on personality or interest, not age…just like adults!

  5. Homeschooling in our area of Virginia is mostly practiced by religious zealots who don’t want their children “contaminated” by public education. So all of the support groups are composed mostly of that sort–not the peer group we wanted for our children. So we bit the bullet and moved to a “good” school district. It’s too late to turn back at this point (They’re 14 and 12), but it is a decision I constantly second-guess.

  6. Regularly read your prose. Thank you very much for your prose. Your writing has been a lot of work.

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