Thursday, January 6, 2011

Optimism for the End of Government Schools

Gary North writes a lot about trends that are due to the decentralized web of communication that is the Internet.  One of these is the death of traditional newspapers.  Today he discusses schooling in Public Education Is Going Down.

One theme in North's article is that the web provides a wealth of tutors for the home-educated child; tutors who are free and who "make house calls".  The model of transporting students to tax-supported institutions is now out-dated, and home-schooling is a trend on the rise.  North writes: 
When you can buy from anywhere, local monopolies die. That happened to medieval urban guilds. It is happening to education. The local tax-funded school cannot deliver the goods. Today, it offers babysitting. It offers sports. It offers a central market where drugs are available. It offers opportunities for teenagers to hook up, which does not mean what it did in my day. It offers economies of scale in those features of education that are either peripheral or objectionable.

We should cheer the process of schools dying, even if it produces a period of painful adjustment for those attached to the system.  I am optimistic along with North, but there is also a lot of intertia in the school system, and bureaucrats who wield political power will not graciously let it go. 

Many parents also do not have the confidence in themselves to pull their children out of the government schools.  They remember all of the classes and grade levels, the sheer volume of material to master (or more correctly, temporarily remember), and the enormous cumulative preparation which all of that must entail. 

But it is not necessary for parents to recapitulate all of the work that culminates in an elementary school lecture.  First, I think we ought to question the traditional curriculum model that was, as John Taylor Gatto has written about, historically developed for the shaping of obedient factory workers.  But even if we think the school's model roughly "gets it right", there is no need to source this work out to a school.  The materials are available for anyone, and their costs are decreasing.

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