Expanding an idea I first tossed out on this blog, I write,

A simple way to separate the teacher from the exam is to exchange grading responsibilities. For example, have the teacher of “algebra 2” make up and grade the final exam given to the students taking “algebra 1” from a different teacher. Chances are, the algebra 2 teacher has a good idea of what it is really important for students to master in algebra 1.

…With the standard practice, where professors make up their own exams, the students put pressure on the professor to make the course as easy as possible. If instead the exam were made up externally, then the pressure would be on the professor to teach the course rigorously.

The latest issue of The New Atlantis has an article by Matthew B. Crawford saying that we should bring back shop class. He argues that we are losing our knowledge of industrial-age manual labor skills.

My reaction is that we have to realize that in a modern economy all sorts of traditional skills are in less demand. How many 19th-century jobs require skills that are still relevant today? Should we also have classes in farming?

I actually think this might be an idea worth considering. Imagine we had a hundred-person economy that could not trade with outsiders. It could have abundant natural resources (water, forest) but no man-made resources (electric plants, cars, MP3 players). It would have to provide its members with food, clothing, sanitation, and shelter (could it do much else?). What knowledge and skills would you want the hundred people in such an economy to have? Would young people today benefit from learning those skills?