Issues and Answers

The Problem With Education

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: Shelley Quinn (Host), Randy J. Siebold


Series Code: IAA

Program Code: IAA000424

00:01 Perhaps you've heard the name John Taylor Gatto.
00:04 He was the New York City and New York State teacher of the year.
00:07 He had something very interesting to say and I want
00:10 to read this statement. He said, Slowly I began to realize that
00:14 the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age
00:18 segregation, the lack of privacy the constant surveillance and
00:22 all the rest of the national curriculum of schooling were
00:27 designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children
00:32 from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction
00:37 and dependent behavior. What is this wonderful teacher
00:43 speaking of? Well today we're going to be taking a look at the
00:47 problem with education. Please stay tuned.
00:51 Music being played.
01:13 Hi, I'm Shelley Quinn and we are so glad that you could join
01:17 us today. Let me introduce right away our very special guest who
01:21 is Dr. Randy Siebold. He is the Vice President of Education
01:26 for the Weimar Center of Health and Education. That's a long
01:31 title. That's a lot to say. It is a lot to say.
01:33 Very good to be here. Randy we're so glad that you are here.
01:36 Now let's let our audience get to know you a little bit better.
01:40 Your Ph.D. is in what area?
01:46 Well, it's in the field of education, instructional
01:49 systems technology. It's from Indiana University.
01:52 Okay, that's interesting. We won't even go into what that
01:55 means. But now how did you become interested in education
01:59 because I personally know you and know that you made a switch
02:03 from being a building contractor and you went into education.
02:06 How did you get led in that direction?
02:08 Well, I actually had just completed my masters in art and
02:13 started teaching photography at the college level and just
02:16 started doing some reading because I wanted to teach well
02:20 and I found a book called Education by Ellen White.
02:24 I started reading it and it really impacted me. At the same
02:28 time our children grew up and we started watching them grow,
02:33 doing a little home schooling. So I really started digging into
02:37 education. So that's really what turned it for me.
02:40 Then before you went to Weimar give us a little fast track of
02:45 what you've done over the last 20 years as an educator.
02:49 Well, most of that was teaching at Andrews University as a
02:54 professor and I enjoyed that experience a lot. After my Ph.D.
02:58 which was completed in the middle of that I really sensed a
03:04 need for helping education to change. My Ph.D. really helped
03:09 me think about that. About educational reform?
03:14 Yes, yes, thank you. So with this building passion about
03:18 education and how do we do it differently and how do we make
03:22 it really built around the way people learn, I took a position
03:27 as a principle of a high school, moving from the college
03:30 professor to high school principle and we went into sort
03:34 of a more radical reform because of the situation of the school
03:39 and really just enjoyed the education process. I went on to
03:44 also be a superintendent of education for a few years before
03:48 I picked up the position at Weimar.
03:51 Yes. Well I know that I met some of your students. When I first
03:55 met you, you had come down with a group of students and talked
03:59 with each one of them individually and they all really
04:02 had developed a very close relationship with you and had a
04:06 deep admiration for you and some of the things that you had done.
04:08 Well, we're glad you're here and actually we did a live together,
04:12 you and I and Dr. Nedley and this topic was just touched on,
04:18 so we wanted you to come back and talk to us about education.
04:24 It seems that if you're watching the national news of late, and
04:28 it's been more of late, it seems over the last number of years
04:31 people are talking about educational reform, but some of
04:36 it seems like they are short term solutions rather than long
04:40 term solutions. What do you see is the greatest problem and how
04:46 do we even begin to look at fixing it?
04:48 Well the problem with education from a public school and
04:53 national scope is debated in lots of different arenas.
04:58 The difficulty with education is it's such a long term fix. You
05:04 don't just fix something and see immediate results. It's not a
05:08 pill. In a health scene, it's less like a pill and more like
05:12 a lifestyle change. That's the difficulty of trying to address
05:19 education. But now I've heard you speak
05:21 when you were here before you talked about some of the
05:24 problems particularly in the United States and I would say
05:29 probably in most industrialized nations, are that there is kind
05:33 of a system that's in place and it's a cookie cutter, almost a
05:37 factory model type system. Explain to us what that
05:43 terminology means and how does that fit?
05:47 Yes, well, most of the people who have been in public schools
05:50 and most people have, they're dealing with an education that
05:56 takes... Think of it this way; what I call the curriculum cloud
06:00 what you're going to teach. So it's not really very clear and
06:05 crystal, it's sort of fluffy. What are we really teaching?
06:08 Do you know what I'm saying? Okay so there's this fluffy
06:11 cloud and we take it up and we divide it up into discrete
06:14 segments of math and science and English and so we have one
06:19 person who deals with math, one person deals with science, so
06:22 they can do their job well. I mean, that's the theory, that
06:25 they'll teach each person well. So it takes and it divides up
06:30 this educational experience into components rather than seeing
06:35 the development of a child as a whole, as a whole piece, it
06:40 primarily focuses on these components rather than the child
06:46 as a whole. But explain that a little bit
06:48 more because obviously... I'll just tell a quick experience I
06:52 had when I was in the 8th grade and we moved several times in
06:56 that school year. I ended up in this geometry class and the
07:01 professor, the teacher I should say, was a basketball coach and
07:06 he knew less about geometry than I did and I'm kind of coming in,
07:11 I hadn't learned all the reasons that they had to memorize.
07:14 Isn't there a benefit to having a teacher who is specializing in
07:19 an area or what is the problem of compartmentalizing our
07:24 education? Well we can look at it this way.
07:28 If you think of education purely as academic studies, that works
07:34 really well. If you're dealing with math and you want to teach
07:38 math really well, that works really well. But we sometimes
07:46 equate education with school and education is a lifelong
07:51 experience. It's not something that is from a six-year-old to
07:57 an 18-year-old and we box it in and the students get to the spot
08:01 where they can't wait till they don't have to learn anymore.
08:04 They've mistaken learning for school and because they are
08:11 frustrated with school and pieces of what school's about
08:14 and they think they don't like to learn.
08:18 Okay, I'm going to do this. Let's bring out John Taylor
08:21 Gatto's quote. I want to dissect this quote that I started the
08:26 program with because John Taylor Gatto is the teacher of the year
08:33 for New York City and New York State as a whole and he has the
08:36 most interesting comments. Let's look at this and you can read it
08:39 to us. It's on the screen here.
08:42 Slowly I began to realize that the bells, the confinement, the
08:47 crazy sequences, the age segregation, the lack of
08:51 privacy, the constant surveillance and all the rest
08:54 of the national school curriculum were designed exactly
08:58 as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning
09:03 how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and
09:07 dependent behavior. The fascinating thing about this
09:11 is if you think about bells, just for instance... What we
09:17 know about the learning process is it's very intuitive, I mean,
09:22 children, young children, know how to learn. They grow and they
09:26 learn more, walking and running and doing different tasks and
09:32 that growth process isn't compartmentalized and learning
09:38 is difficult when it's regulated by bells.
09:43 You mean like the school bell when it's ding-a-ling-a-ling
09:47 and the period's up. Think about this: You're in math
09:49 class and you're just getting a concept and the bell rings and
09:54 it's time to stop learning math; now it's time to start going
09:57 down the hall and learn English. There's good pieces that come
10:04 with education system, there's good things that are happening
10:07 in it. We have very dedicated teachers and lives are being
10:12 changed in our current system. It's not all bad. There are
10:15 things we could do better.
10:16 So when you think about our school system and I think as
10:20 I read what John Taylor Gatto was saying, following along on
10:25 that quote, it seems that he is essentially saying we are not
10:31 really developing critical thinkers, problem solvers,
10:34 we're just developing kids who can learn certain formulas to
10:39 take a math test, for example, but not maybe how to apply
10:42 algebra. He's basically saying the way this school system
10:46 itself, our system of education, has been set up so that we
10:52 we are actually thwarting the effort of the natural
10:57 intuitive ability of a child to learn. Is that what you're
11:00 saying? Well, I think what John is
11:02 saying is he senses that the whole education process is
11:07 centered around the content, not centered around the child.
11:12 There's a huge difference there. If we were to take the whole
11:18 child and then let's say divide that up into mental, physical
11:23 and spiritual for example, okay? Then we take the mental and we
11:28 divide the mental up into components like creative
11:33 thinking, problem solving and then one component of the mental
11:39 is memory, when in fact we spend a lot of time enhancing and
11:46 testing, some students would say torturing, the memory and we
11:52 have a quote on that as well. Let's bring a slide up here
11:55 on that. This is from this book that I told you about, Education
12:01 For ages education has had to do chiefly with the memory. This
12:06 faculty has been taxed to the utmost while the other mental
12:09 powers have not been correspondingly developed.
12:12 That's what we're talking about. Rather than doing the whole
12:16 mental thing, we're doing just that one component.
12:21 So would this be fair to say that, for example, memory...
12:26 I loved math. J.D. hated algebra but he's so intelligent. I told
12:32 him, Honey, if you had understood how it applied you
12:36 would have liked it, I think. Are you saying that what we
12:39 do is that we teach children theory and we don't let it
12:43 become a practical problem- solving or have any application
12:49 to their life? Well, I'll tell you what,
12:51 honestly teachers are trying to do that more and more.
12:56 You know, as we go in teacher education programs teachers
13:01 going for advanced degrees, teachers in their pre-service
13:05 programs in college, that's what they're trying to do. What's
13:09 happening is I think one of the big problems is we have a system
13:14 that's set up that teacher's have to fight to do that. It
13:20 doesn't just naturally occur within that class period. You're
13:23 building up the motivation and trying to build something up and
13:27 then it goes away because the class period is ended. That
13:33 quote that we read continues on. I want to get back to that.
13:36 Because in this quote she talks about this:
13:40 Students have spent their time... Now remember she's
13:43 talking about this memorization ... Students have spent their
13:47 time in laboriously crowding the mind with knowledge very little
13:51 of which could be utilized.
13:55 Look at this, and this is amazing:
13:57 The mind thus burdened with that which it cannot digest and
14:02 assimilate is weakened... so we're talking about this idea of
14:08 making sure that we're dealing with things that strengthen the
14:12 mind, okay let me continue... it becomes incapable of vigorous
14:18 self-reliant effort... and here is the amazing thing to me...
14:24 and is content... now this is the mind... is content to
14:26 depend on the judgment and perception of others.
14:29 So what she's saying here is when we focus primarily on the
14:34 memory this is causing problems with the way the mind works.
14:38 Focusing purely on the memory with that which it can't use
14:43 weakens the mind. You're singing my tune here
14:49 because even that not only is in education in school but I would
14:55 say education in the Bible or if you want to call it religion is
14:59 that I believe I believe when we just call texts memory texts,
15:05 and it's something just devoted to memory and it's not made
15:08 applicable to our life it doesn't do us any benefit. All
15:12 it does is begin to overload up here and pretty soon people...
15:15 you know, some people can quote some scriptures that they've
15:18 heard from of old, but basically we're saying the same thing.
15:22 As we get older we say that we've forgotten more than we've
15:26 every learned. But basically that is what one of your
15:32 premises is, not yours, but in general, the reform that needs
15:37 to be made in school is to get away from just a straight
15:42 memorization, teach children to be problem solvers, critical
15:46 thinkers, teach them to become learners.
15:50 If you think about the 21st century, this new context that
15:55 we have, MSNBC had an article written on their website and I
16:00 was reading through it. It talked about like the future of
16:03 what learners need to have. It was fascinating because...
16:07 Let's explain what a learner is first because I use that
16:11 terminology and I may have left somebody. You define: What is
16:16 the difference between the average student and one who is
16:19 a real "learner. " Well, let's take a look at great
16:24 learners, children, young children. If there was one
16:31 standing here it would be just this little boy, just his finger
16:34 would be in here. He'd be all over the place, just looking.
16:37 He's very inquisitive. Here's my frustration. I don't like
16:46 critiquing schools, because there are good people that work
16:50 in those schools and they do a great work every day. I think
16:56 the bigger problem is in the structure, the overall structure
16:59 the way we have organized it. You're talking about the system.
17:01 I don't want to mislead anybody and have anyone think that I
17:07 don't like schools and I don't like teachers. I do. I've had
17:11 amazing experiences, but I also know that there are difficulties
17:15 with it. So this learner idea is someone who is just naturally
17:21 inquisitive, wants to know, and, in fact, needs to know, can't
17:26 not know. I just had an epiphany, because
17:31 what you've said is we are born basically to be learners and we
17:36 see this exhibited and manifested by the behavior of
17:40 young children. Is it possible that when we get to school and
17:46 we're put in these areas of confinement and suddenly we're
17:52 taught to just memorize, are we actually squelching that
17:56 intuitive ability to learn. There's some really fascinating
18:01 people that have lectured on this and research and theorists
18:05 are doing this. There's an author that has a book out
18:10 called Punished by Rewards and his point is saying that when we
18:17 reward people for good behavior we actually are ending up to
18:23 demotivate them. It ends up reducing their intrinsic
18:30 motivation because we are rewarding their extrinsic
18:33 motivation. That makes sense to me. That
18:36 makes perfect sense to me.
18:37 And so with that what happens is creative thinking... so think
18:43 about this. Our schools, the way they are designed we have right
18:49 answers and we've told the teacher here's what we want
18:52 you to tell the students to learn. So here's the content,
18:56 make sure the students know the content; that's your job.
18:59 So there are right answers. Here are the right answers, you
19:02 know them and so now you teach those right answers to the
19:07 students. But then a student goes out into life and there
19:12 aren't always right answers. It's a bit frustrating because
19:16 well what should I do. How many times have people landed in jobs
19:22 nowadays that there isn't a clear job description. They walk
19:26 into the position and it's like well what do I do? Well here's
19:31 your job, do that. And here's the computer and go figure that
19:35 out. That's not part of the content, the training,
19:39 that curriculum cloud.
19:41 Okay, so what is the purpose of education then? And if you
19:47 will divide this. We see what we believe the public schools feel
19:52 the purpose of education is and what do you believe Christian
19:56 schools see as the purpose of education.
19:59 Well they sort of go in two different directions.
20:04 Take public education; basic socialization giving students
20:09 the ability to socialize, make friends, know their neighbors,
20:14 understand social skills and things like that. Then learning
20:20 in knowledge and content skills, having the content, all of these
20:26 subject areas that the teachers are to teach and basic skill set
20:34 That's roughly framed. You know there's discussion, but by and
20:41 large that's the skill set. For Christian education what has
20:47 been impressed to me is that our goal of Christian education is
20:52 to move much more into the image of God, to have the image of God
20:57 recreated in man. So think about it this way in the general men
21:02 and women, the general sense. If God created man in his image,
21:08 right as we read in the beginning of scripture in
21:11 Genesis and then Genesis 3 happened and Adam and Eve fell
21:18 from that; their image is marred and so now we've been through
21:23 all of this degradation. His goal to be educated is to be
21:28 recreated in that image. That's the goal.
21:32 Now you're not saying though, I won't say what you are saying,
21:37 are you saying that academic achievement is not as important
21:42 for Christian schools as it is for public or are you simply
21:46 saying that the focus is different, that the priority is
21:50 on spiritual development, is your top priority, I should say
21:55 and then academics are equally as important?
21:59 Well, it's a component and it's a component. Now there's a spot
22:04 in scripture where it says, you know, they wondered about Jesus
22:10 having not had letters. He did not have the rabbinical
22:14 education and so they wondered how could he know scripture
22:19 without having the rabbinical education. Jesus was certainly
22:25 very knowledgeable of content of the day. That was clear. So I
22:30 think that seems clearly to be a part of what God wants for us.
22:36 The problem is in Christian education is when we make that
22:40 the paramount thing that we are trying to make. So what we do
22:45 often in Adventist education is we take our public school
22:51 counterpart academic realm, we add a Bible class perhaps and
22:56 Christian teachers and then we call that Christian education
23:01 and by and large that's most of what we do with Christian
23:06 education. That's not necessarily the ideal or God
23:09 would really have us as I read what he's told us through his
23:15 prophet. So basically it's a good system
23:18 but it's got a lot of area for improvement. All right, you
23:23 know we are obviously going to have Dr. Siebold come back
23:29 and join us for some other programs because what we are
23:34 doing today is just taking a quick look, a very brief soiree
23:41 into the problems of our educational systems in this
23:47 world and hoping that we kind of pique your curiosity, maybe
23:52 jar you loose a little bit to think about the area of reform.
23:57 We are going to have you come back and talk about reform and
24:01 some of the things that the Lord has been leading you in and
24:07 obviously is with many other people. Your children are now
24:11 older, but you do have a daughter that's in her senior
24:16 year in high school, right? Were they always educated in
24:20 Christian school or did they start out in public schools?
24:25 Well my oldest daughter went into a Christian school for her
24:31 first grade year and then after that we ended up just through
24:36 a series of events planning to do one year temporary home
24:41 schooling and then we moved into the second year.
24:45 And did you notice any significant difference in the
24:49 curriculum... I mean, we're talking in theory here so I want
24:52 to bring this down to the real thing...did you notice any
24:56 significant difference when your children started going from
25:00 public school into Christian school or did you find what you
25:05 just said is that basically what happened is that now she had a
25:09 Bible class and Christian teachers?
25:11 Well I've dealt with Adventist education a lot and there's a
25:16 significantly different product, I think we'll find in Christian
25:21 schools as you'll find in public schools. But there's so much
25:25 variety and individuality, too. I mean, you go from one school
25:30 to another school, there's so much. The teachers are different
25:35 the books they use are different even in the same county there
25:40 can be some pretty great variance between those, but I
25:43 think we've found Christian education to be a really
25:47 valuable product and I think what the Lord has impressed me
25:51 with is we need to keep pushing it.
25:54 Amen. So basically what we are saying, the premise that we are
26:02 laying today is that the problem with the system... if you're a
26:07 teacher or a principle, please we love you and we know that
26:11 you're doing the best with what you've got...but we are
26:15 looking at and we're going to evolve in this matter on our
26:20 next program. But the main problem with the school system
26:24 is that it is one that is teaching children more,
26:29 or drawing more on memorization rather than actual application
26:35 and may in some ways be killing off, or smothering, I should
26:41 say, the intuitive seeking and learning ability that God put
26:48 into little babies. So what happens is when we have
26:53 great teachers they're able to pull that out of young people
26:58 even in the system we have. That's a difficult thing to do
27:02 with the time limit and the bell
27:08 Yes, when you have a child for, what is it, 50 minutes a day or
27:13 whatever. Yes that would be. Well I was just going to say
27:17 One of the common sayings of trying to help kind of set this
27:22 in memory is having the teacher move from the sage on the stage
27:27 to the guide on the side. It tries to help keep it away from
27:31 content and move back into the idea where you're helping them
27:36 become learners. Well, you know, Randy, I can't
27:39 wait for you to come back because we've just kind of
27:42 cracked open an egg here, if you will, and it may seem a
27:45 little bit scrambled to you right now, but I hope that
27:48 you'll be able to join us next time because we're going to get
27:50 into this a little bit deeper and look at some of the
27:53 solutions. Randy thank you so much for being with us here
27:55 today. I appreciate it, thank you.
27:57 For those of you at home I do encourage you to come back and
28:01 watch the next program because this is going to get quite
28:04 interesting and now our prayer for you is that the grace of our
28:07 Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father and the fellowship
28:10 of the Holy Spirit will be with you always. Bye, Bye.


Revised 2014-12-17