Wednesday, March 16, 2005

How to Save California's Schools

I am what you might call a "super user" of the California Public School System: Spear-son and Spear-daughter in middle school and high school respectively, and Ms. Shaker a teacher's aid studying for her full teaching credential.

So when California spends over $9,000 per student (including local, state, and federal sources) in 2004, and yet ranks near the bottom in many state-by-state comparisons, it's going to take more than just the Governator to turn things around.

I've got two mandatory core curriculum changes that will improve the value of a California education and set our students on the right path for the future:

1) eBay Lab: If my son can sell his used Nintendo Gamecube, along with a set of old games, on eBay for 3/4 of its original value, then others need to be introduced to this service. Not only did he learn how to market an item (the gallery photo, description, and product listing are critical), but also how to price (reserve or no reserve price, review of comparable listings), transact an auction, interact with a buyer, pack and ship a product, receive electronic payment, provide feedback, and potentially manage any return issues. In others words, he became an online entrepreneur. Think how efficient our economy would be if all school kids were taught how to use this tool and apply the learnings to other businesses.

2) Apprentice Studies: There hasn't been a TV show that more accurately presents the concepts of responsibility and meritocracy in the corporate world better than the Apprentice. Granted there is plenty of gamesmanship and contrived drama, and corporate life can be dreary and corrupt, but the lessons of project management, task management, teamwork, planning, competition, and accountability are invaluable and sorely lacking in the school system. And these skills don't just apply to big business. Students would study the episodes, write papers on lessons learned, and then be assigned their own community service tasks in a competition. We'd have to scale back some of the awards, however.

eBay and the Apprentice - two of our best pop culture inventions that just might save the younger generation.