Teachers Unions vs. Online Education

Kids live on the Internet. Why aren’t they learning online too?

I know a 3-year-old who’s a master of online multitasking. Give him an iPhone, and he’ll cheerfully chat you up while watching YouTube cartoons or playing an alphabet game. In 2010, toddlers start consuming digital information not long after they’ve started consuming solid food.

Now take that kid, tack on a handful of years, and drop him into a classroom. A child who was perfectly content with a video stream, an MP3, and a chat flowing past him is suddenly ordered to sit still, shut up, and listen while a grown-up scrawls on a blackboard and delivers a monologue. And school is even worse for the older girls down the hall. The center of their universe is on social networking and chat sites, so spending six hours a day marooned in a building with no WiFi is akin to water torture. The same pre-teen who will happily while away hours playing Scrabble with her friends on Facebook dreads each Thursday afternoon, when she will be forced to laboriously write out a list of spelling words in silence alongside two dozen peers.

During the last 30 years, the per-student cost of K-12 education has more than doubled in real dollars, with no academic improvement to show for it. Meanwhile, everything the Internet touches gets better: listening to music on iTunes, shopping for shoes at Zappos, exchanging photos on Flickr.

Even with school hours offline, kids are logging plenty of computer time. A January study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that kids spend an average of 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen. The knee-jerk response is to lament those lost hours and hatch schemes to pry the kids’ hands from their keyboards. But that’s the wrong approach. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em: Let kids stare at a computer screen until their eyeballs fall out, but add more educational material to the mix.

A growing number of kids and their parents are figuring out ways to sneak schoolwork online. More than 1 million public school students are enrolled in online classes, up from about 50,000 a decade ago. In Florida, nearly 80,000 kids take classes in the state-sponsored Florida Virtual School. Virtual charter school companies such as K12 Inc. provide full-time online education to 70,000 students in 25 states. Hundreds of small, innovative companies are springing up, vying to combine learning with the power of the Internet. Nationwide, 17 percent of high school students report having taken an online course for school in the last year; another 12 percent say they took a class on their own time. Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, co-author of Disrupting Class, a seminal 2008 book about online education, estimates that half of all high school courses in the United States will be consumed over the Internet by 2019.

But the commercial Internet has already been around for a decade and a half. As the 3-year-old with the iPhone might whine from the back seat of the minivan: Why aren’t we there yet?

School in the Sunshine State

Online education’s biggest success to date is the Florida Virtual School (FLVS). Founded in 1997, FLVS was the first public statewide online education program in the country. Founder Julie Young had snagged a $200,000 “Break the Mold” grant from the state of Florida to experiment with online learning. In the early days, as she traveled the state selling the idea to local districts, the reception was muted. “People were sitting there with arms folded and saying, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ ” recalls the friendly, carefully manicured Young, who had previously worked as a teacher and technology adviser in the state’s public schools.

With the election of Jeb Bush in 1998, Young found herself working under a governor with a serious interest in education reform. With Bush’s support, legislation expanding the virtual school gave the program a unique advantage: Rather than allowing school officials to be the arbiters of who gets to go online and how, the law said any Florida student who wants to take an FLVS course online must be allowed to do so. The students themselves—not preoccupied guidance counselors, budget-conscious principals, or any other gatekeepers—decided whether to give the virtual school a try.

As the Harvard education scholar Paul Peterson put it in his 2010 book Saving Schools, “Much like an Everglades alligator, Young took a quiet, underwater approach.” At a time when Gov. Bush and his cadre of education reformers were regularly butting heads with the educational establishment, Young went out of her way not to antagonize teachers unions or disparage traditional schools. “From day one, what we tried to do was design FLVS so that it was not competitive with the schools, but complementary,” she says. Her pedagogical philosophy is noncontroversial—with a few exceptions, the curriculum is typical of the stuff Florida students would get in a traditional classroom—and she is studiedly nonpolitical. The courses offered by FLVS are supplemental; the virtual school cannot grant degrees on its own. Nearly every student remains enrolled in a full-time program at a physical school. The funding formula adopted by the state takes only a fraction of the annual per-student cost from their local school, and FLVS gets paid only when students successfully complete the course.

Young doesn’t use the language of reform or revolution. Instead she talks about “doing what’s right for kids.” Yet Florida Virtual School’s model is, in its own way, revolutionary. The school employs 1,200 accredited, nonunion teachers, who are available by phone or email from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. Kids take what they want, when they want. The academic results are more than respectable. FLVS boasts that kids in advanced placement courses—39 percent of whom are minority students—score an average of 3.05 out of 5, compared with a state average of 2.49 for students in offline public school classes. FLVS students also beat state averages in reading and math at all grade levels, with 87 percent of eighth-graders receiving at least a passing score on the state standardized test in math, compared with 60 percent statewide. Even critical studies of educational achievement in Florida’s online courses find that the results are as good as or better than state averages on virtually every measure.

Picking Fights

Not all of the major players in online education have opted for the stealthy alligator approach. K12 Inc., one of the largest private providers nationwide, doesn’t mind picking political fights. One of its founders is Reagan administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett, an outspoken conservative. (He resigned from the school’s leadership in 2005 after some intemperate remarks about the alleged links between abortion, race, and crime.) While FLVS was sneaking up on the Sunshine State’s educational establishment, K12 Inc. started showing up all over the country in 2000 with a bullhorn.

Unlike FLVS, K12 provides full-time instruction. That means students from kindergarten through 12th grade can do their entire school year online. While the curriculum isn’t particularly innovative, the model is potentially far more disruptive than a program like FLVS. K12 takes children and teenagers out of school and away from traditional teacher-student relationships. The company has some partnerships with traditional public schools, but K12 primarily works by helping charter schools in states with lenient laws go virtual, accepting kids (and the money they bring with them) from all over the state.

In the zero-sum world of education dollars, that approach means that state education bureaucrats generally don’t show up at K12’s virtual door with welcoming tater tot casseroles. In 2003 Wisconsin’s Northern Ozaukee School District was experiencing declining enrollment and hoped that bringing in a virtual charter might attract students (and their per-pupil spending allocations) from around the state. This worked brilliantly, with 500 students signing up for the virtual charter school from all over the state in the program’s first year. The district and K12 split the $5,000 that came with each kid, and everyone was happy. Well, everyone except the administrators and teachers in the districts losing enrollment dollars to the experiment in online learning. The conflict exploded in January 2004 with a lawsuit brought by the teachers union and the elected state superintendent. State Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine), who heads his chamber’s education committee, accused private education companies of “profiteering off of kids.”

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  • Suki||

    Good morning reason!

  • bloomin'||

    Guten tag suki! alles klar?

  • Suki||

    annyeonghaseyo! modu myeonghwaghan mwo?

  • ||

    The article says it was posted at 7, yet you beat it by an hour and change.

    *dumbfounded*

    Good morning, Suki!

  • Suki||

    Who is spoofing RS?

  • ||

    Why would you suspect someone is spoofing me? 'Cause it's not true.

  • Suki||

    Because real you should be used to the timestamps in my posts by now.

  • ||

    In other news, this is terrifying.

  • Donald Berwick||

    ‘This a classic example of the malaise in the NHS where more and more money is being pumped in without any regard for whether we are getting value for money’

    FFUUUUUCCKKKK!!!!

  • JoshINHB||

    This is even more terrifying

    http://www.newsweek.com/blogs/.....chief.html

  • ||

    Online education is definitely something we need to move toward, but you shouldn't put so much focus on a child's ability to multi-task. The detriment of multi-tasking is pretty clear these days: the more you do it, the less you get done and the lower the quality.

  • ||

    Agreed, good point. Given how bad people including kids are at multitasking (wrongly thinking they're good at it!), and as I recall some studies showing that students who don't learn/are taught to be able to focus on one task at a time (at least sometimes) have problems focusing and working intensely on things later in life (in schools, colleges, and work), to a large extent learning to focus on one thing at a time without distractions is a good thing.

    Also, unlike a private/charter school, if Internet schooling (or home schooling) leaves children without social contacts with other kids and learning to interact and work with others, that's a problem. Obviously, there are many home-schooled kids with lots of friends etc. but there are also some who are "victims" of helicopter parents (see Cory Doctorow re "free range" children) who control all aspects of their lives.

    In other words, yes, there are bad things about "traditional" schools, but even from a libertarian point of view (i.e. take government out of the equation, e.g. private schools) there are advantages to "brick and mortar" schooling. Not to mention subjects in which hands-on work is important (sciences, fine arts, etc.).

  • Highway||

    The rebuttal to this is that 'learning' isn't something that requires 100% attention. And especially in schools, the pacing is slowed down to slower than the slowest kid, so anyone who can learn faster than that kid is sitting there wasting time getting bored. The answer has traditionally been 'give them busywork to keep their mind off of how un-busy they actually are.' Even replacing that busywork time with something that's more engaging will have a positive benefit, even if it's not learning.

    As for the 'hands on' stuff you mention, there's darn little hands on science or fine arts happening in schools right now.

  • ||

    Oh, I agree there are problems and I totally agree that given a specific school/school system, online learning in that place may be better for some/many.

    But the worst problems you point out are problems because of what schools do and have become, NOT problems with the model (a physical school). Lack of science or fine arts in public schools for instance - that is a problem, but the problem is the lack of such, not that there is a physical school.

    Teaching only to the "slowest" child is also a big problem. Some special needs children can adequately be taught in classes together with those without such needs, without the education of all suffering (and in some cases there is a benefit). But in some cases, those children need special teaching/tutoring/education. One child should NOT be a drain on teaching time to the extent other students suffer. At the other extreme, "gifted" children may often also benefit from teaching geared to their abilities (I'm in a jurisdiction that offers "gifted" education - academic, artistic, sports - as well as special needs education, in the public schools with some schools and teachers devoted to this).

  • ||

    The argument that socialization of homeschoolers is less than that at public schools is such a non-starter. I was home-schooled, and had the ability to take FLVS classes while in my public school, and I was far more entertained and learned during the time apart from public school classes, aside from maybe AP courses.

    Libertarianism can solve the poor education problem AND the socialization aspect. Place more emphasis on private sports clubs (I played club soccer for 10 years) and bands are or art classes, instead of saying that kids have to take part in those activities at the public school. The Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs of America; all are far better alternatives to the "real" socialization students get at public school. The reasons for continuing to support public schools are becoming less and less in my eyes. They start and stop with particularly good teachers I had, and those are teachers that would do just as well (or better) in private or online schools.

  • ||

    I'd take it a step farther. Screw private organized sports, Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, all of which I've had experience with with my little siblings.

    Whatever happened to the good old days of going outside for an impromptu game of soccer in the street, walking down to the playground or the library, things I did during a portion of my childhood. At the risk of using the phrase "these days", these days it's only the poverty-stricken inner-city-dwellers with access to the natural, healthy, non-micromanaged kind of socializing entitled to everyone but especially children.

  • JoshINHB||

    Kids live on the Internet. Why aren’t they learning online too?

    They are, just not the boring crap that politician want them to.

    My kids learned on their own how to repair computers, build websites, make bottle rockets, solve a rubiks cube in less than a minute etc.

    And don't even get me started about WoW or other games.

  • Tim||

    We can't allow our schools to be distracted from their mission of preparing our children to be 19th century factory workers.
    Sit! Do! Eat! Sit! Do!

  • ||

    I know a 3-year-old who’s a master of online multitasking. Give him an iPhone, and he’ll cheerfully chat you up while watching YouTube cartoons or playing an alphabet game.

    I hate this kid already.

  • Old Mexican||

    Teachers Unions vs. Online Education

    THERE. More accurate.

  • FTFY||

    Teachers Unions vs. Education Everyone

  • ||

    I'm worried about socialization and face-to-face contact with other kids. Oh wait, they're already socializing on Facebook? Well then, I guess that's a tried and true method.

  • ||

    Tell me again why corrupt teachers unions are worse than corrupt educational software companies? Oh, because they're unions, and groups of people under the label "unions" are much worse than groups of people with similarly biased goals are great under the term "corporation". Unions lobbying for self-interested reforms are bad, corporations lobbying for self-interested reforms are good.

  • Highway||

    Suuuure, keep telling yourself that's what the issue actually is. It's not something like the teacher's union is lobbying to keep themselves in a monopolistic position as the sole recipient of larger and larger public funding... Oh, wait, it is.

    The only way a 'corrupt educational software company' could be in anything close to the same position is if some monopolistic entity, say, oh, a government, was going to make there be only one software company.

  • ||

    I got no love for the teachers unions. I belonged to one years ago, and it was a scam. However, I'm a bit skeptical of trading one lobbying powerhouse for another.

  • Jen||

    Who says these "corporations" are a "lobbying powerhouse"? That's an assumption you're making out of your own prejudices. We don't like the teachers' unions because we *know* what they're going to do - we've been watching them do it for decades. We don't know what K12 Inc. will do, because the company just started up.

  • ||

    Jen: K12 will do what Scholastic would do, assuming that it isn't ultimately bought out by Scholastic. Hey, I understood your "evidence please" post below. It made sense. However, this one is just stupid. Do you really need evidence that corporations and industry trade groups hire lobbyists? Really???

  • Jen||

    What I need is evidence that this corporation will be "corrupt" and pursue "self-interested reforms." What is stupid is making an assertion like that without any evidence.

    It's a simple economic truth that any business that depends on willing customers will want to provide a product or service that people want - in this case, good education that produces results. If these companies choose to "corrupt" that, they lose customers. It really is that simple. Public schools, on the other hand, rely on government funding and thus don't have that dilemma, which is why they are free to pursue the "self-interested reforms" of which you speak. That's precisely why they CAN be lobbying powerhouses, because they only ones they need to convince are politicians, not parents. Yes, some parents will send their children to public school, but those parents' property taxes will still fund the public schools.

    So I'll ask you again: evidence, please?

  • Jen||

    *the* only ones, sorry.

  • Grammar Nazi||

    Good catch, but I would have let it slide. Just that one time though. Carry on.

  • ||

    Jen: Businesses pursue self-interested reforms all the time. It is the basis of what we call capitalism.

    I have many clients who spend lots of money to gain governmental influence. Just like it is a simple economic truth that a business serves willing customers, it is also a marketplace truth that businesses that do not compete in all arenas (i.e., including regulatory) will be at a disadvantage. Now, I am using the term "corrupt" in a cynical way because we don't have any "evidence" that teachers unions are breaking the law any more than corporate interests might.

  • Jen||

    So in other words, you have no evidence, only meaningless drivel. I am fully aware that corporations will hire lobbyists. I work for a law firm with a lobbying team, and I have done plenty of work with that lobbying team. But you completely ignored what I asked you to do, which was translate the use of lobbyists into the existence of a corrupt entity that serves only itself. In business, that is impossible, as long as your customers have to choose whether or not to pay for your services. And who said anything about "breaking the law"? Your whole "argument" is coming apart at the seams.

    But yes, we absolutely DO have evidence that public schools produce mediocre results compared to private schools, precisely because the teachers' unions are free to pursue purely selfish interests, BECAUSE they do not have paying customers. The private schools offer a better education precisely BECAUSE they are a business. I don't know what more evidence you could possibly need than that.

  • ||

    I was using "corrupt" in the same way that we casually label unions "corrupt", which is to say that they hire lobbyists to get as much out of government as they can. My point is that if we assume the unions are corrupt, we have to use the same standards for corporations.

    The same question could be asked removing the word "corrupt". FYI: I have a similar job description as you.

  • ||

    And you can save your pro-private school arguments. I'm already with you on that one.

  • Jen||

    I don't call teachers' unions corrupt because they hire lobbyists. I call them corrupt because I have to keep shelling out property tax dollars for them whether I enroll my children in public or private school, or have no children at all. They use these captive dollars to implement unfair systems like tenure to reward laziness, while our children suffer with a mediocre education.

    When a business hires a lobbyist, that business is still obliged to produce a quality product if it wants to stay above water. It can lobby for lower taxes, it can lobby for favorable regulations, but it cannot lobby itself out of competition and the need to satisfy the customer. Can they make their environment better for themselves? Of course they can. But if you're postulating that this affects the quality of a child's education, I disagree, and you have done absolutely nothing to prove your point. If you are not arguing this, then so what? Call me crazy, but I could care less if a private educator hires a lobbyist to obtain more favorable regulations if said educator is doing a good job. It's not nearly the same thing as when a teachers' union bleeds a state treasury dry while our children's test scores remain in the gutter.

  • ||

    I don't call teachers' unions corrupt because they hire lobbyists. I call them corrupt because I have to keep shelling out property tax dollars for them.

    It is my understanding that teacher's unions are not funded by your taxes, unless you are referring to the indirect path whereby your taxes pay the teacher's salary which is then used to pay union dues.

    I have no beef with your criticism of public schools. I really don't. I just don't see the foundation for switching over to internet-based learning is a cure all. Sure, there's a role for online learning, but there's also a role for schools and real people teaching things. This isn't a private vs. public school issue, which is why it bothers me that the unions have been interjected into the argument. Sure, unions are there to protect their behinds. But that doesn't mean online learning is a cure all. Anybody who has ever been in education knows that there is a new fad every 5 - 10 years, and this is just the latest.

  • Jen||

    The problem I have with your argument is that it's largely a straw man argument. Nobody either called online learning a "cure-all" or clamored to replace school learning with it. It is an alternative available to parents who choose it. Other parents may choose more traditional private schools, and still others will choose the public school system. I'm at a loss as to who can argue with that.

    The unions interjected themselves into the argument when they started trying to kill online learning because they want to keep every child in the public school system. They are not victims.

  • ||

    You say that nobody is clamoring to replace "school learning" with online learning, then in the very next paragraph you admit that children are leaving the schools because of online learning. The article says only a portion of these children attend a school-like setting, so in short, YES, both you and the article are saying that school learning should be replaced.

  • Jen||

    Your logic is quite convoluted, Lamar. That *some* children leave schools for online learning in absolutely no way means online learning has "replaced" school learning. Have private schools replaced public schools? Have airplanes replaced trains?

    If that's what you got out of the article, then you need to read it again. It said that online education has a right to exist, without the unions deliberately trying to destroy it. Perhaps if you had gotten past page 1...

  • ||

    Sorry, Jen, but the article clearly states, "education will be virtually unrecognizable, and thank goodness for that". So if that doesn't mean traditional school learning will be replaced by virtual learning, then I apologize. It is, however, a reasonable interpretation of the statement.

  • Jen||

    No, it is not a reasonable interpretation. Even if it were, it would only be an interpretation of the author's opinion, not an interpretation of the lay of the land in education.

    Even within the author's opinion, he is clearly stating that he believes online education will eventually win out, not because state governments decided to "replace" public education with it, but because of changing times and evolution. It stands to reason the the public schools themselves will adopt more and more technologically advanced pedagogical methods. In fact, some schools already have their students using Rosetta Stone programs to supplement language classes.

    In sum, EVERYTHING evolves to the point of being virtually unrecognizable. If you really believe education won't ever change, then I have a bridge to sell you.

  • ||

    Jen, you don't have to agree with my interpretation of the article. However, you have to use my interpretation when impeaching my statements, because my interpretation of the article is part of those statements.

    And I'll buy that bridge, Jen, because I believe in the privatization of infrastructure. And, as you say, what was once unthinkable, such as buying a bridge, is now routine.

  • Jen||

    Even if I accept your interpretation, it is poor proof that online education is going to "replace" public schools. I asked you to provide evidence that that would happen, and if that one quote is the best you can come up with, I'm afraid you have failed miserably.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Lamar,

    Tell me again why corrupt teachers unions are worse than corrupt educational software companies?

    Maybe, just maybe (and please, bear with me): MY KIDS ARE NOT MADE TO SIT DOWN AND LOOK AT SOMEONE'S SOFTWARE EVERY FUCKING DAY FOR SIZ LONG HOURS JUST SO SOME NITWIT CAN JUSTIFY GETTING A PAYCHECK AND BENEFITS OBTAINED THROUGH LOOTING MY WALLET.

    That's the difference. I am glad to be of service.

  • ||

    MY KIDS ARE NOT MADE TO SIT DOWN AND LOOK AT SOMEONE'S SOFTWARE EVERY FUCKING DAY FOR SIX LONG HOURS JUST SO SOME NITWIT CAN JUSTIFY GETTING A PAYCHECK AND BENEFITS OBTAINED THROUGH LOOTING MY WALLET.

  • Old Mexican||

    Ho-hum... You're boring, Lamar.

  • ||

    I'm not responsible for getting your kicks. A state of boredom is something that you do to yourself.

  • ||

    So take your kids out of school altogether Lamar. Teach them yourself.

    The sad thing is that teachers are incorporating computer programs and TV shows (Bill Nye, anyone?) into their lessons more and more anyways, but still we can't give over control the rest of the way and let students decide their own class schedules or curriculum.

  • ||

    Or why don't we all just exercise a little caution when adopting the latest education trends?

  • Brenna||

    You're kidding, right?? By and large our educational system is trapped in the 19th century. I think we can do with a few more trends, or at least, and this is key, the FLEXIBILITY TO TRY!!! The point of this argument is that the union squelches anything that might threaten their power base. And they do it because it threatens it, not because they "have the best interests of the kids in mind".

  • ||

    No, I've been in education, and I'm not kidding at all. Your 18th Century comment proves you don't know what you're talking about. Not even close.

  • ||

    The numbers for those charter schools don't surprise me. It's a biased population - they are students whose families already place a higher value on education, thus they self-selected the online or charter programs. The "drifters" just go through the motions in the public schools, not actively choosing anything. In "Freakonomics" they compare the data from the Chicago public schools, and kids who *entered* the school choice lottery did better than all the rest, even if they "lost" and stayed in the crappy schools they were trying to get out of. Family environment is a stronger factor in education than the actual school. If everyone was allowed to pick whatever school they wanted, the crappy schools would be left with the students from families who don't value education. Sucks to be them, but that's life.

    Socialization? I remember what socialization meant in school.

    It meant getting picked on, bullied and teased for having the right answers. And I was a white kid in a predominantly white school in the suburbs!

    And of course this was the early 80's, before the bullies could chase me worldwide on facebook and twitter.

    I also remember teachers that couldn't spell or write a complete sentence.

    One teacher wrote a letter home addressed only to "Mrs. D-------", which my dad found humorously offensive (I lived with him - Mom had moved out).

    The notion of 14-year-old kids ("Doogie Howsers") going to med school is only a novelty because the education establishment has brainwashed the masses to believe that we all learn the same stuff at the same speed. Bullshit. At age 9 I was rewriting BASIC programs on my "toy" computer, because that fit well with how my brain works. The kid down the street from me was already playing Mozart on the violin at a professional level. But he couldn't understand one line of code, and I would have tried to pluck the violin like a ukulele.

    Individualized education is the way to go. If colleges want a "score" to decide whom to admit, besides SAT and ACT and admissions essays, they can have their own placement exams. GPA is a flawed metric anyway.

    Every home schooled kid I've ever known has placed in the 90th %-ile or higher on all that stuff.

  • ||

    Hear here!

  • HERP DURP!||

    Hurrah for technology! I can't wait till education comes in the form of a suppository. If only my 8th grade teacher would've administered those lessons.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    That's not were education goes. My priest said that's the way to let Jesus in.

  • HERP DURP!||

    I stand corrected, good sir.

  • Old Mexican||

    Now take that kid, tack on a handful of years, and drop him into a classroom. A child [...] is suddenly ordered to sit still, shut up, and listen while a grown-up scrawls on a blackboard and delivers a monologue.

    Doesn't matter if the kid has never ever seen a computer. THE ABOVE is enough to discourage anyone from going to what in the end is a jail for children.

  • ||

    Now take that kid, tack on a handful of twenty years, and drop him into a classroom job. A child An employee is suddenly ordered to sit still, shut up, and listen while a grown-up boss scrawls on a blackboard and delivers a monologue....

    Oh, I know. The whole thing isn't very romantic.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Your boss writes on blackboards and delivers monologues for most of everyday? What does he pay you for?

  • ||

    "Your boss writes on blackboards and delivers monologues for most of everyday?"

    (1) Didn't say it was my boss, (2) didn't say boss's do that routine "for most of everyday," and (3) I suppose the bosses who do such things in meeting do it for a reason.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    (1) Right, it's nobody's boss,(2) Right, listening to a boss tell you what he/she wants you to do is often part of a job, (3)me too.

    If someone feels that they are a corporate drone wage slave they can prove themselves wrong by quitting and trying something completely different. I find that very romantic.

  • ||

    They sell close their shop, sell their house, buy a ticket to the west coast and give them a stand-up routine in LA.

  • ||

    Wow. My delivery needs work.

  • Old Mexican||

    You get *paid* to sit down and listen to a monologue? Man, I want YOUR job.

    If not, then come up with intelligent responses. You're boring me.

  • ||

    Old Mexican: perhaps part of the problem with communication via computers is that you don't pay attention to what I'm actually saying. Just a thought. But hey, apparently none of you have been involved in what the corporate world calls a "meeting".

  • ||

    Oh, right. Meetings are boring!

  • Jen||

    Are you actually making the claim that online/home-schooled children will be unable to sit through meetings later in life? Evidence, please?

  • ||

    Jen: My post is in reference to the following:

    Now take that kid, tack on a handful of years, and drop him into a classroom. A child [...] is suddenly ordered to sit still, shut up, and listen while a grown-up scrawls on a blackboard and delivers a monologue.

    Show me the evidence for this, and I'll show you the evidence for my assertion.

  • Jen||

    I know exactly what you were referring to. It seemed to me that the reason why you posted it was to imply that this style of education is a good thing because it trains children for the same style of discourse later in life. If that was not the point of your post, then I apologize...but add that it was a very puerile post on your part.

    Either way, I don't need to show you evidence for anything of the sort, because I didn't make the assertion. The article did.

  • ||

    Are you fucking kidding me? You need EVIDENCE to know that kids in public schools are told to sit down, shut up and listen to some tool yammer on while scribbling on a blackboard???

    That's about 90% of the public school experience, you douchebag.

  • ||

    Jesse: I don't need evidence. That was the point. I don't know why Jen needs evidence.

  • ||

    Because most jobs in America aren't sitting in front of a teacher boss listening to him/her lecture during a class meeting.

    Once you leave the forced imprisonment that is 12 years (well I guess kids can drop out at 16) of education, they can choose to do whatever someone will pay them to do, whether it's digging ditches, caddying for Judge Smails, or becoming a multi-billionaire software engineer.

    Public education doesn't prepare kids for shit. That's why it's a complete waste for students to have to go, parents (and non-parents) to have to pay, and Americans to have to deal with.

    We should just bring back the apprenticeship. I could've been a hell of a blacksmith.

  • Jen||

    Lamar, I think your public school education failed to instill reading comprehension skills into you. Read my last post again. And again. Eventually you will understand it, I hope.

  • ||

    Jen, you asked for evidence supporting the proposition that historical methods of teaching (sitting in a class) better prepare children for sitting in a board room than emerging internet-based methods of teaching. Right? Now how could there possibly be such evidence if internet-based methods are still in their nascent stage? In short, I was urging you to apply the same standard of proof to the article's implication that plopping a kid into a classroom is a bad thing as you rightfully applied to my implication that sitting in a classroom has some value.

  • Jen||

    And what makes you think that I haven't? As far as I can see, I haven't commented on that part of the article at all. There are many reasons that I think online education could be a fantastic idea, but freeing kids from sitting through lectures isn't one of them.

    I will say, however, that there are many other places one can learn that skill. I learned it at the dinner table, from which my parents would not allow me to be excused until everyone was done eating. That's where I learned not to interrupt as well. As for sitting through boring lectures, well, I guess I learned that in church. Perhaps children without an intact family structure might miss out on these lessons if they are educated online, but as online education is privately funded, I doubt many children from that background would be educated that way anyway.

  • ||

    We seem to be speaking past one another, which is an inherent weakness of the internet.

  • ||

    Maybe this highlights a draw back to internet discourse?

  • Spencer Smith||

    I think that the real problem is teachers are technologically illiterate- as are most librarians. They are unable to figure out how to best use this tech, so they end up mirroring in class education or simply using it for playing "educational" games. Add the bureaucracy of most schools and you get everyone repeating the mistake and misuse of tech.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Spencer Smith,

    I think that the real problem is teachers are technologically illiterate- as are most librarians.

    THERE. More accurate.

  • Spencer Smith||

    Too true.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    It's becoming increasingly obvious that a teacher molested Old Mexican when he was a child.

  • Old Mexican||

    Oh, by the way, the WaPo conceded they blew the Black Panthers story. So FUCK YOU, David Wiegel.

  • Jen||

    Oh, by the way, the WaPo conceded they blew the Black Panthers story.

    That would be something I'd like to hear about.

  • Jen||

    I meant to delete the "story" from there.

  • Michael Scott @ Dunder Mifflin||

    The Internet is fine for playing games and forwarding funny e-mails, but real business is done on paper. Write that down!

  • ||

    Tell that to my boss. I've been trying for two years to get our accounting archives out of lateral cabinets and into electronic storage platforms.

  • ||

    We are very advanced. We have taken all of our paper documents and transferred them to files that look like paper documents on the screen. We even have spreadsheets that you don't have to print out. And best of all, the index of our pictures is searchable on a computerized index. You no longer have to look up a keyword, you can just type it in on a keyboard that looks a lot like the QWERTY typewriters from 1874.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Tell that to my boss. I've been trying for two years to get our accounting archives out of lateral cabinets and into electronic storage platforms.


    There is a good reason we keep paper archives.

  • ||

    "The courses offered by FLVS are supplemental; the virtual school cannot grant degrees on its own". --They can now. Go to FLVS's website and you will find a new program called Florida Virtual School Full Time - "Through the FLVS FT program, public school students have the opportunity to earn a high school diploma through their district."

  • ||

    Sweet!

  • jtuf||


    The real issue here isn’t socialization but something else. If there is one thing that nearly all American parents have in common, it is the paralyzing fear that they might have to figure out what to do with their children all day, every day, for 12 long years. Michael Horn, one of the co-authors of Disrupting Class, estimates that the number of kids who might learn full time at home tops out at 5 million, a figure based on how many live in family structures that allow for all-day adult supervision. That leaves more than 90 percent of the nation’s 55 million school-age children in need of someplace to go during the day.

    After a century of factory style child rearing, we've lost the nack for parenting. I think we could relearn it if we got rid of schools one grade per decade, starting with kindergarden.

  • ||

    If there is one thing that nearly all American parents have in common, it is the paralyzing fear that they might have to figure out what to do with their children all day, every day, for 12 long years.

    It's the daycare lobby that pushing for all this!

  • jtuf||

    Math, spelling, and foreign language require much drilling to learn. With computer programs to present and check practice exercises, it is easy to have the kids learn these subjects at home while a parent does something productive near by. This would allow us to reduce the time a child spends in school to 20 hours per week. Then it would be possible for elementary school teachers to put in a 40 hour week teaching two classes in shifts. We would nearly half the cost of primary school.

  • thenino85||

    I find it amazing that you seem to promote the impetuousness and inability to concentrate inherent to children as wonderful things to be harnessed. Before you start claiming I'm some kind of fascist, remember that most economic fallacies that bring forth socialism and tyranny well up from this basic concept, the inability of people to step back and think critically about the big picture; to see the unseen. Once cannot read Hayek, von Mises, or Rothbard and think "Man, there's a completely undisciplined mind!" There are a lot of things wrong with our schools; trying to teach discipline is the least of their problems. Granted, it is something the parents should be doing, as the school system can't seem to separate discipline and subservience. Still, these are not good qualities for our children, and the tendency of cosmotarians to promote such values bothers me greatly. If the population can't be disciplined, it will be subservient, and on some level, they deserve the hell they make for themselves. Learn the difference. If people can't sit down and understand why an argument is complete bullshit, they will only be able to understand their own emotions, and statists will always win in that argument.

  • ||

    I would agree with you completely were it not for the fact that critical thinking is discouraged if not often outlawed in public schools (at least high school).

    Teachers never want to hear outside the box answers, because they want to maintain control of the class. Clowns like myself who thought critically about a problem and then made a joke about it/dissected it often got detention for disrupting the rest of the class, rather than rewarded or at the very least encouraged for thinking of something in a different way.

  • ||

    How much for a Jaime Escalante simulation program?

  • ||

    If telecommuting takes off which it inevitably will then online education will take off too.

  • ||

    Telecommuting is taking off.

  • Maurice||

    Now take that kid, tack on a handful of years, and drop him into a classroom. A child who was perfectly content with a video stream, an MP3, and a chat flowing past him is suddenly ordered to sit still, shut up, and listen while a grown-up scrawls on a blackboard and delivers a monologue.

    Just to play Devil's Advocate, isn't this, just maybe, a good skill to learn? Not all of life is fast-paced and simulating.

  • ||

    Of course it is a good skill to learn, Maurice. Just don't tell Jen I said that, or else she'll start demanding evidence that today's lesson plans will be 100% effective when today's children are 40 year olds.

  • Jen||

    Once again you show your woefully poor reading comprehension skills, Lamar. What I said was that you lack any evidence that children who learn online don't learn these skills. And once again, instead of a coherent argument to show why this might be so, you spew out more meaningless drivel. Have any of your posts on this article had any point at all?

  • ||

    And you lack evidence that children who learn online DO learn these skills.

  • ||

    And since it is you that is supporting the change in methods, I would submit that the onus is on you to make the proper proofs.

  • Jen||

    False. The proof is in the economics: if parents keep paying for it, it means they are satisfied with the product they are purchasing. If you're the one advocating restricting people's freedom to make that choice, the onus is on you to make a good case for it.

  • ||

    Jen: Nice try, but nobody is telling parents they can't buy whatever they want. You just made that up.

  • ||

    Jen, quite honestly, you keep responding, and so do I, but I've lost track of what your particular beef is. I suggested that a shift to online learning may not provide all the skills required in today's marketplace. You demanded proof. I said that since you're the one advocating a change in methods, you should provide the proof that newer methods will provide the skills necessary. You said that "economics" will decide whether newer methods teach the skills necessary. Of course, parents bought Baby Einstein products, so I'm not convinced your theory holds true. Nevertheless, you continue to claim that online learning will give students the skills needed to compete in the marketplace, and your proof is that you had dinner with your family.

    Is that about it?

  • Jen||

    Nice try, but if you bothered to read the article, you would know that teachers' unions are actively trying to destroy this new industry, so yes, that does mean parents would not be able to buy that product. And you are supporting unions in their quest to destroy the competition, in this case online learning. You are basing this on the premise that "kids won't be able to sit through meetings," for which you offer absolutely no proof. What you call a "change in methods" is nothing more than the exercise of free choice, whereby one set of parents may now choose among several options for their children, and you are shooting down that free exercise of choice because you believe that this industry needs to prove something to you to be able to operate. You do realize that is fascism, do you not?

  • ||

    Jen, I'm tired of your sad circular tactics. The teachers unions aren't trying to ban supplemental materials available online. They are trying to kill school replacement programs. And while you should be free to send your child to whatever place you want, I'm still free to say that such a choice could actually be worse than a public school education.

    Remember above when you posted that nobody is clamoring to replace traditional school learning? Well, yes they are, and it is that portion of the online learning industry targeted by unions.

    And now you are back to saying that your new educational method, which isn't going to replace school learning except that its going to completely replace school learning, and anybody who questions whether such new methods are a good idea is supporting the teachers unions that they've publicly disavowed. There's a lot of contradiction in you.

    You can choose to send your kid to public school, or private school, or montessori school or send your kid to cut scallions with your Uncle Bevis, and that's fine. But I'll still tell you that Uncle Bevis isn't going to prepare you for the corporate world absent some history. And you still won't believe me because I don't have proof about your Uncle Bevis.

    So, please, I wouldn't put my cock in your mouth, so don't put your words in mine.

  • ||

    Oh my god. I just realize that you've been spoofing me this entire time. Only a clown would call "fascism". Damn. You got me.

  • Jen||

    Wow, you really are ignorant, Lamar.

    Not trying to ban online education?

    K12 could continue to operate, but it could enroll students only from the physical district where the charter school was located—essentially stopping the Internet at the county line. And enrollment was capped at 5,250 students.

    The National Education Association, the country’s main teachers union, takes a hard line on virtual charters such as K12. “There also should be an absolute prohibition against the granting of charters for the purpose of home-schooling, including online charter schools that seek to provide home-schooling over the Internet,” says the organization’s official policy statement on charter schools.

    If you’re a kid who lives in New York, you don’t have access to any public online programs.

    In Virginia you have online A.P. courses, but nothing full time.

    If you’re in California, you have access to full-time programs but not supplemental ones, unless you happen to live in a district that made an independent investment in online learning.

    It would be laughable, if it weren't so pathetically sad, that you don't see the chilling effect on economic freedom when unions behave in this manner, and yet you argue in the same breath that an industry that seeks to exist alongside the public system is "replacement"? There is a lot of contradiction in you, not in me.

    Once again, if I choose to pursue private education, that is not "replacing" public education. Public education still exists. And where exactly are online programs seeking to replace public school? Is this a hunch? So far such an attempt has not been made, except in your own imagination. They're simply offering an alternative product.

    And yes, Lamar, suppressing an industry in other to prop up another, picking winners and losers, seeking state control over a sector of the economy, IS fascist. If you need to wikipedia "fascism," go right ahead.

  • ||

    Jen, you know, thanks for your comments. They're a jumbled anti-union mess, which is a shame, because unions are easy targets. My original point was that regardless of whatever the unions are doing, online learning may not be sufficient to prepare kids for the next generation. Everything else is you drinking too much coffee and burning a hole in your panties.

  • Jen||

    I don't drink coffee, and your own comments are jumbled anti-corporate fluff that one can't take any more seriously than the Daily Show. You haven't demonstrated a single coherent argument in which your conclusions follow from your premises, and your "premises" themselves are comprised chiefly of emotions and biases.

    Your original point, if you ever had one, can be found by scrolling up. Your "point" was that you think the only alternative to the teachers' union shutting out online competition is total replacement and domination by the latter. And that "point" is a rather ridiculous lie. That "point" hinges on the impossible assumption that state governments will liquidate every school in their jurisdiction in favor of a fully online education system.

    And who cares what you think is "sufficient"? I don't think caffeine is healthy, but I don't think it should be banned. It's none of your business what others think might be a better learning style for them. Your opinion by no means constitutes a right of the teachers' unions to shut online schools down.

  • ||

    Regardless of whatever the unions are doing, online learning may not be sufficient to prepare kids for the next generation.

  • Jen||

    You're perfectly welcome to hold that opinion, Lamar, but, again, others are welcome to feel otherwise and act accordingly. The problem I have with this is that teachers' unions think they have a right to create a monopoly for themselves.

  • ||

    Can't argue that teachers unions should hold a monopoly on anything. I'm sure the logistics would be a nightmare, but I always resented that I couldn't negotiate my own contract. I saw too many good teachers leave over pay and horrendous red tape. It really is a lowest common denominator scheme. That's why teachers complaining about pay are right and wrong. The good ones are paid based on the performance of the mediocre.

  • ||

    I find this argument fascinating. First, a bit of perspective. People have been saying for decades that a "tool" (i.e. online learning in this case) in and of itself will improve learning. Research has unequivocally shot down that claim. Instead, research has shown that it is the pedagogy used that makes the difference. In other words, do you wonder why the teacher who lectures in a monotone voice and scrawls on a blackboard is ineffective in teaching his/her students? It is because they are not using effective pedagogical methods.

    I know that someone will say, "please, you know that technology can increase learning outcomes." No, I don't know this, and moreover, research has proven over and over again that it is the pedagogy, not the technology, that makes the difference. So what should we do? We should focus on allowing parents free choice to choose teachers who know how to teach, and teachers who use good pedagogy should be rewarded well for doing so. The current system does not allow either. And THAT is why it is flawed. Not because they are against online education.

  • steven||

    Dennis, by far the most intelligent comment on this article. Thank you!

  • ||

    I'm not sure it's a terribly good idea to have kids staring at a computer screen (or television) for several hours a day. I suppose Government can always fund eye surgery.

  • ||

    It does, but you gotta join the Air Force.

  • ||

    Online education is a good augmentation to classroom education, but it will never replace it fully. Parents still want a place to keep their kids while they're working.

  • MSP||

    Online education for children is as wise as online fire departments or online dog walking. You can do it, but the results would be predictably disastrous.

  • otherhmm||

    You're kidding, right?

  • MSP||

    No, I'm not. Would you try walking your dog online? Of course not, that would be stupid.

    Likewise, 2nd graders need to be physically present in the classroom. Online education for children is an answer in search of a problem.

  • ||

    MSP, respectively, aside from your anecdotes, where is your research based proof for this? I actually agree that adding online education without using good pedagogy will be an unmitigated disaster. However, you need to back up your statements with more than just nice stories. I may not walk my dog online. But what if I learned how to walk my dog by using an interactive online simulation? Online simulations are a proven pedagogical tool in the research.

  • MSP||

    Au contraire: I do not need to back my anecdotes with research. Instead, I would argue that the burden of proof is on those that propose online education for your children. I'm not aware of any research showing that computerized learning is better than classroom learning. My impression is that it has been a boondoggle and a way to sell computers.

    Just because you can do something doesn't mean that it is a good idea, and this is a perfect example. "Online" isn't the answer to everything. For example, I would never recommend online sex over real sex. Likewise, I would never recommend online education over real face-to-face interactions. Nor do I recommend shopping for shoes on Zappos (I go to the mom-and-pop running store so that I can try them on and take a jog around the block first, sometimes with different shoes on each foot). I think the online time I've ordered shoes on Zappos is when I reordered a model I already owned (e.g. my Saucony Hurricanes gave up the ghost aftet 400 miles).

    What little research I did do involved asking several former elementary school teachers what they thought of the idea (including my wife, now a PhD research scientist at Large Corporation Inc.). They all laughed at the suggestion of online education, and gave several examples of the types dilemmas (kids that don't pay attention, poor discipline, etc.) that they had to deal with to educate their students that would never work online.

  • MJ Brewer||

    The difference is the same as whether it is safe to own a gun or not really, as the gun is not the issue rather the use of it; purposefully or ignorantly. Some people leave it to the school system, brick and mortar or online, to educate their children. The fact is that the initial conditioning for education is during the initial 7 years of a child's life--most BEFORE school even begins. Anyone who sits their child in front of a computer, or sends them off to school with a stack of books without putting effort in should prepare for a shock!

    My students are taught online and my son is invited to participate in an ALP (advanced learning program) as a result. YouTube at mbshus to see the K12 recording. I will grant, however, a dedicate a lot of my time to ensure the progress of my children rather than anticipating someone else picking up the proverbial bill of education.

    It seems wise to me that only people with experience in both building and online schools have valid opinions. Now you know mine!

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  • Shane Gibbons||

    My long-form post arguing that this article, while accurate in it's anti-union position and it's support of virtual education, misses the most important point, is here: http://microsage.wordpress.com.....education/

    TL;DR: For those not interested in reading the entirety of the above link, the basic idea is that while emulating the classical classroom online is certainly a good thing, we shouldn't be attempting to recreate a failed paradigm online. Instead, we should be attempting to radically reform education; taking the effective components of self-directed, elective study and promoting, guiding, and informing them.

  • steven||

    "Meanwhile, everything the Internet touches gets better: listening to music on iTunes, shopping for shoes at Zappos, exchanging photos on Flickr."

    The author is confusing "more convenient" with "better". Music on itunes is more convenient than a live concert, but it's not better. Shopping for shoes online is convenient, but anyone who has bought the wrong size will agree that it certainly isn't better. Exchanging photos online is convenient, but not better.

    Plopping kids in front of a screen is definitely more convenient, but research has shown consistently that it isn't (in and of itself) better.

  • Dan||

    I love when folks who went to Yale try to convince us that high school via iPhone is somehow better than anything traditional educational models have to offer. Half of the point of a liberal arts based education is that it is difficult and forces a student to learn through failure and doing things that they do not necessarily understand or enjoy at first, if ever. If we make school more like Facebook, Youtube, or Twitter (seriously, kill me if that ever happens) we are essentially telling kids that life should not ever have to be difficult, boring, or slow. We will be telling them that everything in life should cater to their needs, and that work they find too hard or uninteresting isn't worth doing. School teaches most of us to grow up because it helps us understand that our needs are only as valid and important as those of the next person. People don't like to hear this, but school should be a meritocracy, not an ever malleable system that allows people who don't want to challenge themselves to feel equal to those who do. Perhaps the internet can teach people to be better at math. And perhaps it can make history more memorable by giving them points to spend on iTunes every time they answer a question about the Civil War correctly. But the internet, with its penchant for making life easier and easier, will destroy our ability to differentiate between kids who are genuinely intelligent and those who are simply products of a system designed to make them succeed, whether they actually deserve to or not.

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  • MJ Brewer||

    I was impressed with the statistics in this article, except for one; my students attend K12 and we don't pay any fees at all! Of course, we do not participate in the "private sector," but the public.

    When you would like additional information, feel free to ask!

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  • Bryce McMinn, Meriden||

    Teachers Unions vs. Online Education

    Bryce McMinn

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  • Ask For Education||

    This leads to perverse incentives. Education only works when the student pays up-front, before the teacher has to grade the tests.
    What you call “perverse incentives” many of us see as good business practice. Very few industries – and make no mistake about it, “education” is an industry – has people paying “up front” for goods of undetermined quality. Why should a teacher bust their gut teaching when they are getting paid no matter what?

    In other words, what matters in the real world is whether a student can do the work in real life situations. There are school districts in this country that for years passed kids based on age – not whether they can do the work.

    After a while, it begins to appear that the unions and the teachers in traditional settings are worried or concerned about the education of a child, but only the education of a child in a manner that provides them an income.

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