The Big Think

January 6, 2014

Another Way of Learning

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 3:43 pm

Consider alternative schooling: Column:

“Back in the 19th century, when Massachusetts Board of Education Secretary Horace Mann toured Europe looking for models of public education to import to America, the one he chose came from Prussia. Inflexibility and uniformity were Prussian specialties, and when Mann brought Prussian-style education to America, those characteristics were seen not as a bug but as a feature.

School was practice for working in the factory. Thus, the traditional public school: like a factory, it runs by the bell. Like machines in a factory, desks and students are lined up in orderly rows. When shifts (classes) change, the bell rings again, and students go on to the next class. And within each class, the subjects are the same, the assignments are the same, and the examinations are the same, regardless of the characteristics of individual students.

This had its advantages back during the Industrial Revolution, an assembly-line era where uniformity was more important than anything else, when Henry Ford was happy to sell you a car in any color you wanted, so long as it was black. But this is the 21st century, and now times have changed. You can buy a thousand different kinds of shampoo, so why should your kid have only one kind of education?

Many parents, thus, are embracing alternative education — like homeschooling or online school — not only as a way of escaping the often-poor instructional quality and questionable discipline of public schools, but also as a way of escaping the rigidities they bring.

It’s easy to miss just how much inflexibility is introduced into American life by the traditional public school approach, but those rigidities are legion.”

Read the whole thing

I’m very excited about the future of education. As the current system continues to creak and groan at the seams, turning out subpar students and abysmal thinkers, we have witnessed a flowering of alternatives. It is the normal occurrence to meet a student from these alternatives and find them much more eloquent, relational, and educated than the average public school student. Here’s hoping that alternative choices– and the improvements they bring– continue to flourish.

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