On Improving Education
“Improving education” is not improving education.
On Improving “Gyms”
Suppose we championed the noble cause of “improving gyms”.
First, we’d say that our gym equipment is ineffective. We’d complain that our treadmills are not “forward-thinking”, and that our weights are outdated. We’d pressure our gym-districts into buying the latest-and-greatest exercise-equipment, and watch the next generation do just as poorly as all the previous ones.
If that doesn’t help, the problem must be the personal trainers. People can’t exercise on their own – they need professional guidance! How else will they stay motivated? So each personal trainer will be responsible for the fitness of 20-30 people who don’t even understand their own emotions yet; these people must sit still for most of their day while the other lifters get their opportunities to use the equipment; plus they’re not allowed to talk or text for most of the day. You want to do some squats? Too bad! You have to take dumbell-science for 8 years before you get to touch a barbell!
All these trainers and equipment require a lot of supervision. That’s why most of the gym employees will be middle-managers who don’t seem to be in very good shape. But that’s okay – they’re just the people who make all the important decisions on behalf of the most critical and impressionable group of people in our society.
In your 8 hours of gym-time, you’ll probably only get about 1-hour of exercise in, so they’ll ask you to exercise 1-4 hours at home every night. You’ve been assigned treadmill-somersaults and inverted-deadlifts, but all you want to do is take a nice run around the block. And on those rare nights where you actually have the time and energy to run, your friends and family will prevent you because “live a little, dude – life is more important than exercise”.
If you’re lucky enough to have a family that can support your home-gym, and you happen to be motivated, congratulations! You will be successful in the gym! Unfortunalely for you, your personal trainers will tell you to stop working out so much – it makes things difficult when you get too far ahead of your peers. And isn’t it strange that everybody would think that grouping by age would work better than grouping by strength? It always seems like the weakest feel demoralized and the strongest are held back.
But wait – it looks like after all this effort, standardized strength-test scores are rapidly declining! The weights are probably just too heavy. So let’s just paint some new numbers on those old discs. And “obese” is not a very kind word, is it? Let’s just lower the bar a little bit.
Ah, maybe strength is declining because people don’t want to be in the gym! It’s probably not because they want to play run and play outside. Let’s replace some of the squat-racks with a computerized sauna! Let’s add televisions to all the machines! And let’s make lifting weights “fun”! It’s difficult to teach people the deep, intrinsic joys of health, so we’ll just add some games to the training curriculum.
And it’s okay if you’re still out-of-shape after the first 13 years. It’s not like your body was especially pliable and full of energy during that time. You can always put yourself in permanent debt to try another 4 years.
Both learning and exercise are difficult. And they aren’t “fun”. Telling kids otherwise makes them feel like they’re lazy and stupid.
The truth is that learning and exercise are fulfilling. They inspire wonder. They pull your dreams closer to reality. They improve every quantifiable metric of your life.
We need more frequent standardized testing. We need programs guided by innate human curiosity rather than external carrots-and-sticks. We need curriculums that are difficult, yet forgiving. We need to teach.