Every three years I force myself to do something that, although it is geared to save me money and provide for my safety, I dread it more than the possibility of Kidney Stones. New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, the DMV provides a Defensive Driving Course for drivers to complete and earn a reduction on their insurance premium, or a reduction on points on their license as a result of traffic infractions. Not wanting to suffer alone, and needing to get the highest reduction possible on my insurance premium, I enlisted my wife and daughter to attend the SIX hour course with me. Misery loves company. We did have a choice of two, three-hour sessions, or one, SIX hour course. Our choice was to not prolong the agony over two sessions. We opted for the SIX hour course
I do not know for sure, but I imagine other states offer such courses for their drivers. The entire SIX hour course was developed by the DMV. The instructors are all certified by the DMV. The 56 page workbook was developed by the DMV. The 20 question course Exam with multiple choice answers as the culminating event was developed by the DMV. The course was delivered on a DVD which was produced by the DMV. The course was delivered by a private driving school. The classroom was provided by the driving school. The fee for the course went to the driving school.
I always go to this course waiting to see the original Blood on the Asphalt, an old Driver’s Ed standby 16mm film from the 60’s. It never appears. It must be residing in some Driver Ed museum. The DVD used to present the course provides a number of very modern videos during the course, all of which are of a higher quality than those of the 60’s. The pre-packaged curriculum is very well thought-out. What wasn’t so well-thought-out was the rows of folding chairs in the room for the SIX hour course. There was a non-interactive whiteboard in the front of the room. It could have been a blackboard. All in all, it looked like a modern version of a 19th century classroom without the Franklin stove.
The instructor was a very nice guy. He had been specifically trained to teach this defensive Driving course by the DMV. He was, as many of these instructors are, a retired teacher. He was also a driving instructor. He was friendly, engaging, and humorous. He did however need to follow the curriculum set out by the DMV and complete the 56 pages within the allotted SIX hour time slot. Additionally he needed to confirm our completion of the 20 question multiple choice Exam.
Here is what really struck me during the course. We went step by step following the curriculum and doing the worksheets at the appropriate times. We watched the prescribed videos as they appeared on the DVD. I had a cup of coffee and a bagel early on, so I was somewhat awake. My daughter however, was nodding off, and had to get off the somewhat padded folding chair for the comfort of the carpeted floor. Halfway through the SIX hour course, that’s when it happened. We watched one of the prescribed videos on driver safety. The subject of the video was putting people through a driving simulator. They encountered various scenarios in the simulator. The subjects drove in the simulators and adapted to various defensive driving scenarios. We got to look at the results. As the video ended, the blaring question in my brain was, “Where the Hell is this damned simulator?”.
If we all took turns in the simulator, my family and our 8 classmates would all be better defensive drivers in a much shorter period of time than SIX hours. We would be the “Ninja Warriors” of defensive drivers. Instead, we were being prepared over a SIX hour period to pass a 20 Question Multiple choice test developed and delivered by the DMV. That is when I realized why fate had me endure this SIX hour agonizing experience. It was to view the future of Education.
This was a course developed by the government. The instructor was trained by the government to stick to the curriculum. The curriculum was canned on a DVD so that there would be little deviation from the prescribed material. The consumable worksheets were developed for the course by the government. Private industry partnered to make all of this possible. The classroom, furniture, instructor’s pay, tech and whiteboard were all provided by independent business and no taxpayer expense.
It was all too obvious. As all of this went through my head, I could not believe the parallels I was beginning to formulate. Consider: the government mandates, the call for a standardized curriculum, the certification of teachers, the goal of passing a standardized test, and even the arrangement of seats in rows. Let us also consider the incursion of private business into the education space. The best thing of all is that we can do all of this in just SIX hours. I believe I have seen the future of Education. What is even worse is that I have experienced it. It is not learning.
The best thing is that the DMV offers an online alternative. It may be quicker than SIX hours, but I do not know if it is better. The best part is that the worksheets and test are presented online. The key, for a less scrupulous person, would be another Tab on the computer. During the Test a student could open a Tab and go to. From that point on it is a matter of cut and paste. So much for “Ninja Warrior” Defensive Drivers. The 20 Question Test however, the real indicator of defensive driving readiness, would have been aced, to make the student a certified defensive driver. I feel so much safer on the road.
If this is a path for education, and there are indications that it may be, what can we expect as the outcome for our kids? We need to rethink prescribed curriculum, standardized tests, the use of technology and all of the rest. There are no easy answers. I have experienced the future of education in SIX hours. I have seen the enemy and it is us.