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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Would you require every student in the country to take a mandatory year-long class in order to find the 5 percent who excel?

Let's suppose you were in charge of a country, say the Soviet Union in 1975. And according to your experts, your country was facing a short-fall of chemists. What would you do?

The Education Ministry reaction would probably be to require all students in an age range, perhaps 12 and 14 year olds, to take a year or two of chemistry classes with rigorous standardized testing. The hope would be that this process would identify the 5% of students who have an aptitude to go into the profession and meet the national need.

And yet the immorality, inefficiency, and even ineffectiveness of this "solution" is self-evident to any parent and any school child.

Granted, one goal of education is exposure. But it is only through enabling self-directed interest (with periodic and restrained help from a guide) can passion be achieved, vital communities be formed, and the mind-numbingness of misaligned classes be avoided.

Broad, blunt curricula is the enemy of widespread excellence, not the enabler. But then schools have always been by and for the top 5% of students.

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