If the limitations of bureaucracies continue to be imposed on or accepted in schools, the only alternative available to those who desire a high quality education will be to create a new system of education outside the range of the state and federal bureaucracies that now dominate public schools. Indeed, such a system is likely to function outside schools more generally, as most private schools are structured on the same organizational premises that guide public schools, and thus are based on assumptions that are not valid in a world where digital learning opportunities abound.
If schools both public and private cannot become more adept than they now are at absorbing and supporting disruptive technologies – and it is clear that digital technologies properly exploited, will be disruptive in bureaucratically organized schools – then customized, commercially provided education is likely to replace both public and private schools, at least for most students. Those left behind will be the children of the poor, who will be trained in state-run bureaucracies rather than educated in outstanding schools, making even more real the social class divisions that are tearing at America’s social fabric (21).
I’ll have more to say about this down the road I’m sure, but I spent an hour talking to one of the co-founders of the Princeton Learning Cooperative yesterday, which is a place (not a school) that helps structures the homeschooling option for parents. Built on the idea of North Star in Massachusetts, it strips away almost all of the bureaucracy of school as we know it and just focuses on kids and learning. The more I dive in, the more sense it makes.
The key, however, is the willingness of both parents and students to shed the traditional narrative of how kids become successful in the world. These kids don’t get grades, don’t take courses, don’t take the tests, self-organize 95% of the experience, and…wait for it…still go to great universities if that’s what they choose.
I’m not saying that this is the “customized, commercially provided education” that Schlecty refers to here. But it is no doubt part of the “new system of education” that is already taking root in lots of places around the country and world.