Instapundit: Consider Alternative Schooling


Writing in USA Today, Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, sounds a call for alternative education:

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?

Read the whole thing.

And check out his new book The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself. I don't fully agree with his arguments in The New School, but nobody has been more persistent and perceptive in calling attention to the higher-education bubble. Totally worth a read.

Reynolds and I—along with a half-dozen other folks—discussed "Where Higher Education Went Wrong" last February in Reason. Read that here.

NEXT: Google Launches the Open Automobile Alliance, Will Promote Use of Android in Cars

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  1. If classes to obtain a real estate license can be taken entirely online, then why can not K-12 education be taken entirely online?

    In fact, i suspect K-12 education could have been taken entirely via correspondence courses in the 1950’s.

    1. Thanks to Salman Khan, you can pretty much take it online already.

      1. His is the superior classroom.

        1. He’s a Kahn Artist.

      2. Does he offer kindergarten?

    2. I occasionally help out a friend who teaches design at a local community college. Many of the entry level and general ed courses can be taken online. The state schools really need to ramp up their game if they want to compete.

    3. B-b-but then no child will ever learn about social interaction! Kids need to be forced into a closed space for a third of the day, with people they may not like or may even antagonize them, to learn how to interact.

    4. People who take real estate classes online are generally going to be self motivated and want to be doing it. Most K-12 students, especially the younger ones are not so much.

      I think that every option should be available, but I think that a lot of students benefit from something like the more conventional classroom experience. The big point is that the one size fits all approach is bullshit.

  2. Sensing that the bubble is about to burst, “traditional” universities are getting nervous. That’s why the University of Southern California had one of their own perform a hatchet job on my institution last weekend in Slate. Having worked there for almost seven years, I can tell you that just the opening paragraph is utter bullshit. You can check out this article by SNHU’s president that explains where and how USC/Slate straight up lied. Not that schools like SNHU should be free from criticism, Kahn is correct in that the adjuncts that are a part of the online division have very little ability to customize their courses, but that goes with the territory; they’re adjunct faculty. It’s like complaining that corporations don’t solicit their temp workers’ opinion on crucial company policies.

    1. schools like SNHU threaten the monopoly of places like USC. Can’t have that, you know. So instead of doing something to make USC more attractive, SNHU is instead attacked. Kinda like debating anything with a liberal.

      1. Something to keep in mind is that these universities have a great deal of political pull. They’ll fight tooth and nail to block alternative institutions from succeeding at their expense, including negative PR like this and political maneuvering.

      2. Why does Slate and USC hate working class and poor people? Or, older people returning to school?

        Online ed offers the flexibility and lower costs that low income people need. Better they borrow tens of thousands of dollars in student loans so the can attend a traditional 4 year school?

        1. *do*

        2. Why does Slate and USC hate working class and poor people? Or, older people returning to school?

          Because they aren’t worthy of supping the milk of Alma Mater, of course. Only the 18-year-old scions of white Progressives, and the few token minorities they bestow their grace upon, deserve a post-secondary education.

          1. I’ll be on campus there later this week. I’ll make sure to tell them you said fuck you.

          2. “Instead, SNHU’s predictive analytics platform plays watchdog, sending up a red flag to an instructor when a student hasn’t logged on recently or has spent too much time on an assignment. It’s a cookie-cutter approach, and a far cry from what some might recognize as the hallmark of a vibrant education.”

            I wonder what they would say about my freshman year psych class at Berkeley, which had 770 students enrolled?

            1. Or my sophomore year Nutri Sci class, with 650 students enrolled. Is that the hallmark of a vibrant education?

            2. How else were they going to justify keeping 25 TAs (hopefully 15 of them hot, in the psych department) on the payroll?

              1. “hopefully 15 of them hot”

                It was Berkeley, try zero.

            3. In my very first class at Penn State, I counted the seats in the room. You could have fit my entire high school in that lecture hall with a few empty seats.

            4. USC has some pretty big lecture classes as well. I’ve never in a class with six or seven hundred students, but I’ve been in a few with 200-300

            5. UVA has a famous science gut course, Physics: How Things Work. I don’t know how many students are in it, but when I took it, it was held in three separate lecture halls. One was the live class, the other two showed the instructor on closed-circuit TV.

          3. As I said in my other comment, I won’t defend the article, but your comment here is ridiculous. A majority of USC’s students are not white.

        3. Cause liberals are racist, ageist, and classist?

        4. Why does Slate and USC hate working class and poor people?

          Because they are operated by ad for Puritans (in this case Methodists). In action Puritans have ALWAYS hated the working class and poor and they in word have consistently lied about it.

          1. More Catholic nonsense about “protestant conspiracies”.
            A lot of poor people go to churches like the Methodist Church.
            Your priest, dressing in golden garments,,,,is lying to you again.

          2. USC hasn’t been Methodist for decades

        5. LB, interestingly, this same guy wrote this article in the WSJ


    2. I stopped reading the first article at this sentence:

      Students are referred to as “customers.”

      If they’re paying, they’re customers, not “customers”.

    3. I’m curious as to you’re accusing USC as an institution, and not Kahn, who actually wrote the article, of lying. You really think USC’s board or president told Kahn to write a hit-piece on New Hampshire University in Slate? Really? I don’t doubt that Kahn’s status as a professor at a school like USC makes him biased on this matter, but that’s not the same thing as USC as an institution being responsible for his article (which I’m not defending – I agree with you that it is very poor “journalism” and he deserves to be criticized for it). I’m a current USC student, and I’d never try to claim that my school is perfect, or that all of the professors are awesome, great people (I actually wrote a couple posts a few months back on how I disliked a class I was taking because the professors used it to push BS left-wing political indoctrination). I actually work at the school (Annenberg) that Kahn teaches at, although I’ve never met him or heard of him. Again, I think he’s clearly in the wrong here, but I think you’re being a little paranoid if you think USC told Kahn to write this.

      1. *Southern New Hampshire University

  3. You can buy a thousand different kinds of shampoo, so why should your kid have only one kind of education?

    Because the highest level of cultural, moral, and economic development mankind is ever going to achieve is a guaranteed for life job on an assembly line performing the exact same task 5,000 times a day. School should prepare people for that.

  4. I went to private school as a kid. We even had alt-text.

  5. It’s infuriating to me how dismissive and dogmatic people can be about the education status quo. There are so many different ways for children to be raised and educated, but we can never let parents and teachers and entrepreneurs try them, because they’re unproven and may not work as well. The status quo is not a complete disaster, so you must be a nutbar (who is interested in abusing kids with a bad education) if you want to try something else.

    Besides, we all know the current system will work better if we just throw more money at it.

  6. Something to keep in mind is that these universities have a great deal of political pull.

    The University of California system didn’t just pull Janet Napolitano’s name out of a hat? They didn’t hire her for her academic heft?

    1. Now you have truly learned wisdom, Grasshopper.

  7. School Vouchers.
    Food Stamps for White Folks.

  8. Whats killing public education?
    Out of Control Federal Bureaucratic meddling.
    You can throw yourself on the ground and scream and kick….but you all know this to be true.
    The Federal Bureaucracy is choking off society’s oxygen just like the pond scum ultimately suffocates all the fish in the pond.

  9. When I was in school….class sizes were probably 25-30 kids to a room, with one teacher.
    Nowadays, my kids are in classes about 15-20 AND the teacher has an assistant AND there’s about 10 admins hanging out in the principal’s office.
    Yet them kids is dummer n h311.
    Why do they require a kindergarten teacher to have a Master’s degree??

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