Saturday, July 31, 2010

Why we shouldn't treat schools like factories, even if it is more cost effective...

If you have ever walked into a factory that produces a finished good from raw materials, it is frankly an amazing process.  Dating back to the early 1900's, Henry Ford revolutionized the world and the way it manufactures goods.  How could one argue with a process that can take different materials and products, and in one smooth motion put them together to produce a brand new flawless product exactly identical to the previous one produced.  The assembly line process used in factories around the world is graded on its ability to produce the same product over and over again in the shortest amount of time possible, and for the cheapest price possible.  We are making a dire mistake by approaching public education in the same manner.

In a factory you start with the same exact pieces before beginning the first stage of the assembly line process.  In education we start with a unique child with different characteristics than every other child.  In a factory you follow the exact same steps to put the exact same pieces together as fast and as cheap as possible.  In education we treat each child as an individual, and we use a different set of steps to help that child no matter  what the cost, or the time involved.  In a factory you are assessed by how many identical finished products you can produce in a certain time frame.  In education we are assessed by how well we prepared our students to be responsible, independent and lifelong learners who are able to be successful contributing citizens in a democratic society.  Isn't it time we treat students like students, rather than treating them like manufactured products from a factory?

With state budgets being cut on a nationwide basis, it is imperative we reach out to our policy makers to insist on continuing to fund education.  As difficult as it sounds, we need to fund education in a way it has never been funded before.  We simply need more...more teachers, more SMALLER schools, more opportunities for students to develop their own love of learning, and more opportunities for teachers to grow personally and professionally.  This is a battle, despite the restraints financially, that we can win.  If we approach each child as a unique and different individual, meet every child where they currently are, give every child a part in the process, trust every child to do what is right, and most importantly, believe that every child can and will make a difference, we can overcome the easy street of the assembly line. 

Please respond to this post with strategies and ways you have achieved this in your classroom, school or district.  We need to spread the word and provide the necessary help and resources to change our factories into schools. 


  1. Very thoughtful post! It scares me how things are heading more and more in education into "cookie-cutter" classrooms, sticking to "pacing standards" and every teacher on the same page on the same day. You hit the nail on the head, students are individuals and we must see each of them as unique identities if we are truly going to meet their needs. I think we need to focus more on inquiry based learning, integrating technology, and building thinking skills. If we just give our kids a chance to think, we might be surprised what kind of learning can take place! My hope is that things in education will swing around and the discovery of what's been right there under our noses all along will hit us: A school is not a factory!