News and Press

WSJ Op/Ed Piece Says School Should Be Like Prison


A recent Wall Street Journal Op/Ed column suggested that prisoners are better students than you are – but today’s educators simply don’t get it.

The Wall Street Journal, one of the premier news and writing institutions have recently published an opinion/editorial piece claiming that current prisoners are better students than traditional students.

The fiery piece, written by Brooke Allen, a college professor, suggested that the prison environment affords a better learning atmosphere than current colleges. Moreover, Allen also wrote that today’s youth lack the attention span because of modern devices and platforms such as cell phones, tablets, and social media.

The Prison Environment

A contemporary prison environment completely lacks technology and minimizes communication – by design. They place security ahead of everything and part of that is to control and limit the amount of information that travels within and through the prison system.

If an inmate wants to communicate with another inmate in a different area, he must send traditional mail, complete with a stamp, through the mail system. He may now send an email through a very limited internet system, but must pay for that, too. The idea is both monetarily motivated, and security-focused as administrative staff want to first screen what is being distributed by reading mail/email first.

Another important element to the prison system is that movement and activities are strictly controlled. This is to provide a sense of predictability to limit “surprises” or unexpected issues. The days are very structured and organized. Inmates do not have complete freedom of movement but are afforded opportunities, as per a scheduled activity like education programs, recreation, trade school learning, etc.

The Op/Ed Case

The author of the column, Allen, compares this lack of total freedom and minimal access to technology to an increased quality of students compared to traditional students.

“Cyber-cheating, even assuming they wanted to indulge in it, is impossible. But more important, they have retained their attention spans, while those of modern college students have been destroyed by their dependence on smartphones,” Allen wrote.

She continued, “My friends who teach at Harvard tell me administrators have advised them to change topics or activities several times in each class meeting because the students simply can’t focus for that long.”

Allen feels that prison students can prepare better for classes, exhibit traditional learning practices such as maintaining focus for a 2 and half hour lecture and want to learn more, regardless of the topic.

Does That Make You a Bad Student

But adding an element, such as a tablet or smartphone, to your life does give you an extra means to grab your attention. Instead of reading a print book, you may read an article online through a news app. Instead of asking somehow how to make apple pie, you may watch a tutorial video on YouTube. And if you have some time to spare – why not jump on an app and play a quick game of Subway Surfer or Call of Duty.

But why does that have to be a bad thing?

Simple. It doesn’t.

Having a choice to use pocket technology merely adds to your freedoms of what you can do and how you can do it. We believe everyone would agree that prison is not the answer to get you to be ‘better’ students. Just the mere thought of it is mind-bending and gut-wrenching.

People want the freedom to choose, the freedom to pursue a teaching mechanism that resonates with them.

That is part of the reason our Haiku gamified products are quickly becoming popular with today’s students.

We at Haiku ‘get it’.

That’s why we put together a platform that combines two important elements to your upbringing – an engaging learning environment and real-world skills training in the lucrative cybersecurity workforce.

The answer is not “less-freedom” by recreating a prison-like education environment. It’s adapting to the changing educational landscape, using learning engineering techniques like those built in Duolingo. Teach young students using video games instead of directing them to play less video games and focus on “real” work. – Haiku

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