Posted by: crudbasher | March 17, 2011

Education Reform is About Time – Part 1

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” – Carl Sandburg

“Our lives are played out on the canvas of Time.” – me

As I look around at the state of education, I sometimes wonder why a system that was designed with such care is considered broken and in need of reform? I think it all goes back to time.

Life Expectancy Chart

100 years ago human life expectancy was about 48 years old.  Because of this, you had to be earning money by the time you were 18 or so. After a 20 year career, you were 38.  Then you retire for a little while then poof, you’re done. Even if you factor in high school and college, you still had to be done with education by the time you were 22 or so.

In addition to that, society advanced much slower than it does today. What you learned in school tended to be sufficient for your career. Most people stayed at the same company for their whole life. This was not lifelong learning, this was life in stages.

Today life expectancy is much much longer and the rate of increase is accelerating. So what does this mean?

Can this keep going?

In the education debates raging in this country right now it’s all about money. Many people seem to think that if only we spent more money on education we will get a better outcome. I submit that the math is wrong. We have dumped a huge amount of money into education in the last 30 years and nothing has changed. You could double it and it won’t change the outcomes.  We are looking at the wrong thing I think.

As a teacher in college, I always wanted to teach more. Each month I would lament what I could do if only I had more time. I can think of many of my students who would have done much better if they only had a bit more time. One of the big arguments against standardized tests is they force the teacher to “teach to the test”. Usually this comes at the expense of teaching other things.  I don’t think there is a teacher in the world who thinks they have enough time to do their job. 100 years ago, that was true, but now we have lots more time.

Tomorrow I will explore how our society is already changing because of longer life expectancy and how it relates to education. (continue to Part 2)


  1. […] (Part 1 here) I talked about human life expectancy and how it has been going up quite a bit over the last 100 […]

  2. […] in the world. Today we finally get to talk about how education will be changed. Here are links to Part 1 and Part […]

  3. […] Education Reform Is About Time – Part 1  Part 2 Part 3 […]

  4. […] I wrote a lengthy pair of posts about this concept of variable time if you would like to read some more. See Education Reform Is About Time. […]

  5. […] In his comparison of education of the past (even present) and his vision of education 20 years from now, Khan said that students go to school for a fixed time from K-12, then some add 4 years for college. At that point, “you are 22, now you will not go to school anymore.” The learning is done. Andrew said something similar in his post titled Education Reform is About Time: […]

  6. what is the life expectancy calculator

  7. […] any interest on their savings. This discourages older workers from retiring and since they are living longer, healthier lives they have that option. Are we seeing that? Very much […]

  8. […] worry about those things on a day to day basis. In fact, the average person in the US today has a longer life expectancy than a person living 50 years ago. That same person has direct access to more information at any […]

  9. […] I don’t often post lists of things like quotes but this is a good list and ties into education. I believe that we learn just as much if not more from failure and yet we strongly discourage it in public schools. Of course we want our kids to succeed but we desire this to the detriment of their learning. I think this is because of time mostly because there is no time to have kids try things and fail. No no, we have a schedule to keep and a certain number of kids have to be processed each year right? I have written extensively about the concept of time in education. (see Education Reform Is About Time) […]

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