Danger! Is your school an “Assembly Line” school?

by Bruce Kasanoff on June 2, 2010

This morning I played tennis with a friend of mine in his seventies, and we observed that the way many classrooms function hasn’t changed much since he was a student.

In the meantime, the way we generate, sort, analyze, distribute and share information has changed dramatically. Likewise, the tools we possess to communicate with each other, to learn and to share have gone through multiple iterations.

Assembly Line schools have basically ignored these developments. They are still organized in a one-size-fits-all system designed to prevent students and parents from questioning educators or administrators. “We teach in the classic, time-tested manner,” they might say.

Unfortunately, old doesn’t mean time-tested. In this case, it simply means outdated.

Here’s how to tell if your school is an Assembly Line school:

Every student gets taught the same way
If you’re in a class with 29 other students, you are all going to be doing the same thing, day in and day out. It doesn’t matter how you learn, or how fast, you are all going to try to march in lockstep for the whole year.

Every student gets the same assignments
Except on rare occasions, your assignments will not differ from your classmates. The class was designed long before you came on the scene, and will be taught long after you depart. The teacher is not going to do anything different to help you learn.

Students sit in a classroom five days a week, listening to the teacher
Stare longingly out the window if you must, but you are not getting out of this classroom. Assembly Line schools operate under the false belief that being present in a classroom equates to learning. Nevermind that you might be able to master the material twice as fast if you got to work at your own pace, or perhaps with an online system, or perhaps with a few peers who learn similarly to you. Sit!

Teachers do not have personal relationships with each student
At Assembly Line schools, building personal relationships with students just isn’t part of the culture. The system isn’t set up to facilitate this; there is close to zero motivation or support for teachers to do this. Excuses abound. An “us vs. them” mentality springs up. The energy gets sucked out of everyone.

Neither the teacher nor the school knows what kind of learner each student is
Why does it matter? Regardless of the answer, the school and the teacher is not going to treat that student differently.

Aside from online homework assignments, most courses make no greater use of technology than they did five years ago
These schools are surrounded by technology. Students communicate via technology that barely existed five years ago. News spreads throughout your community and your school like lightning. But most classrooms remain firmly rooted in a system designed to produce Model T automobiles, instead of educated human beings.

If this sounds familiar, it’s time to speak out. Students are not going to get a good education at an Assembly Line school. Please don’t give up. This blog is designed to help you change your school, whether you are a student, parent, teacher… or anyone else who thinks and cares.

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