Our Education System Cannot Change Until We Abandon the Age-Based Classroom

It’s that simple.

Bernie Bleske


Photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash

Most of the educational disasters we face, and especially the Covid related ones, can be managed if we abandon our dedication to the age-based structure. We need to stop freaking out over students not ‘meeting grade level expectations’ and start re-organizing our schools on a different platform.

Try this: Take everyone you’ve ever known, from your closest relationships to the smallest encounters. Everyone. Your spouse, the checkout clerk, your mechanic, your boss, the local policeman, the lazy bum your sister’s married to. Everyone.

Now group all of those people, every single one, solely by age. Clump everyone within a year period defined only by their birthdays, let’s say September 1st to August 31st. Everyone born between September 1 and August 31 around 1982 is in one group. 1983 another, 1979 another. Gender, race, interests, parents, nationality, religion, growth — none of that matters one bit. Just the birthday.

Then randomly put them into groups of twenty-five, place each group in a room full of desks, and measure them on one specific skill. Insist they must master that skill in a year or they are failures.

They can’t choose the skill or its application and content. If the ‘skill’ is reading, it must be through reading poetry in a few weeks. Or perhaps random non-fiction articles deemed ‘age and interest appropriate.’ Or perhaps just fragments of articles. They cannot choose the method either. If it is dividing fractions, they must use one textbook, be assessed on a paper exam, and through a single set of universal questions that everyone in the room must answer correctly.

And demand a single time schedule. If the skill starts with multiplying fractions, assume they know basic fractions first, and must learn to multiply them within the next year. Once the year is out, they must move on. No matter how complex or varied the skill might be, stick to the one timeline.

And finally, make failure the main motivation. The failure of being held back and repeating the whole process for another year with people younger than themselves.

Of all the things we argue about concerning…