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Should education be age-based?

The industrial-era educational system has segregated our youth based primarily on their age, not on their intellectual capabilities.

Certain school systems offer different 'tracks' for students based on their performance, such as remedial, honors, and advanced placement. Many people do not consciously recognize that 'special education' also includes provisions for high-performing students, not just the familiar use of the term to handle mental retardation. The bell curve can be cruel to anyone compared to it, not just those at the bottom of it. Perhaps every student is a 'special needs' student.

The agricultural-era schoolhouse in the U.S. often had students from K-12 in the same room, all learning together and helping each other. I would submit that the more recent form of education that isolates students based on their being born within the same calendar year may have the effect of producing a kind of social and emotional retardation as well as an intellectual retardation. Various forms of realistic thinking and maturation are discouraged by this system, that tells students not only that they should come up to their 'age' level, but that they should not advance beyond it.

I was punished in second grade for looking at the samples on the wall, and very effectively learning cursive script before it was on the schedule that year. Also, my mom helped me learn multiplication tables and long division.  Oops! I got bored with class, and started misbehaving. After testing, I was skipped right past the third grade.

Later, a fellow doctoral student in my program had apparently over-achieved during his two years. His thesis committee was smacking him around a bit, and he submitted a tongue-in-cheek 'thesis' consisting of three of his published Science reprints stapled together. His committee was not amused, but they graduated him quickly nonetheless.

Why wait, if you can function?

The author's affiliation with The MITRE Corporation is provided for identification purposes only, and is not intended to convey or imply MITRE's concurrence with, or support for, the positions, opinions or viewpoints expressed by the author.

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