Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Education: Will Choice Give Us Smarter but Isolated Kids?

I work for a company that does online education stuff. A coworker recently asked me what I think about what we do from the point of view as a former teacher.

First of all, I am in favor of choice.
  1. I don't think that one particular type of school is best for every student. For instance, some kids have significant learning or social issues that make a brick and mortar classroom environment a bad fit for them.
  2. Choice can lead to some competition. Some schools get so bogged down in just surviving that they lose track of the idea that they are supposed to be educating kids. Most public schools have a monopoly, so they don't have to care about the quality they provide. I understand that most people in public schools are wonderful, caring people who believe that educating children is a calling. My grandfather, mother, aunt, cousin, and I all fall into this group. I am not calling educators lazy or incompetent. All I am saying is that many educators could use a shift of perspective to help focus on what really matters.
On the other hand, a fractured school landscape worries me. I am a public school guy in great part because I believe in heterogeneous social environments that allow students to see different perspectives. We all need to be exposed to diversity. This isn't about having enough black kids or hispanic kids so the class picture looks diverse. This is about having truly diverse perspectives.
  • Rich/poor
  • Christian/Jewish/Muslim/Hindi/Atheist
  • American/Russian/Hispanic/Indian
  • smart/mediocre/struggling (each of these in each academic arena)
Choice is great, but so is heterogeneity.

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