College Insurrection posts are often inspired by a pithy synopsis of campus news by Professor Glenn Reynolds (aka Instapundit).

So, with great joy, I wanted to share items from a new book featuring his wit, wisdom, and expertise on the subject of higher education, K-12 schooling, and possible technology-based transformations of how students learn that we may be seeing in the near future. One word for his newest publication, The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself: Compelling.

I am the mother of a 6th grader who is currently attending public school. While my son’s school is a good one, I find myself supplementing his education with trips to Kahn Academy (his math “coach” describes the program in a great article). A core theme in The New School is that online courses are one of the many new tools that will allow parents to customize an educational approach that makes sense for their children. In fact, he is an “early adapter” himself.

My daughter did most of her high school online, after spending one day in ninth grade keeping track of how the public high school she attended spent her time. At the end of eight hours in school, she concluded, she had spent about 2½ hours on actual learning.

Switching to online school let her make sure that every hour counted. The flexibility also allowed her to work three days a week for a local TV-production company, where she got experience researching and writing for programs shown on the Biography Channel, A&E, etc., something she couldn’t have done had she been nailed down in a traditional school. And she still managed to graduate a year early, at age 16, to head off to a “public Ivy” to study engineering.

My boy will be doing an online course on robotics, which is a developing interest of his. He just informed me he wants to invent the “warp drive.” This Halloween-time picture of us may explain why:

Blake and Mom Star Trek

In fact, this burgeoning industry in educational customization is counter to the 19th century approach that was the basis for today’s American educational system, which was Prussian-inspired standardization during the Industrial Revolution.

Thus, the traditional public school: like a factory, it runs by the bell. Like machines in a factory, desk and students are lined up in orderly rows. When shifts (classes) change, the bell rings again, and the students go to the next class. And within each class, the subjects are the same, and the examinations are the same, regardless of the characteristics of the individual students.

Its creator, Horace Mann, actually homeschooled his children.

The fast-paced book is comprised of 50% on higher education and the numerous problems arising from the “bubble”, 25% on primary and secondary educational systems and their current challenges, and 25% on how new technologies are currently being implemented and projections for their future use.

While Reynolds offers no solid predictions, he does outline a clear battlefield that is developing: Between the education old-timers who will fight change, and the innovative entrepreneurs who will find pathways around the likely roadblocks that will be thrown in their way.

For those of you would would like more of an excerpt from Reynolds book, Minding the Campus has one that covers projected future scenarios for education: Shrinkage, Reconfiguration, Substitution, Exit, New Models.

As a Tea Party activist, I would like to summarize two savvy suggestions Reynolds makes:

To Students: Don’t go into debt.

To Parents: When your kids enter college, it is too late to change their college experience. Get involved with your local school boards, engage as college trustees and alumni, and become versed in institutional budgetary matters as best as you can now.

As Reynolds notes: Industries seldom reform themselves, and real competition comes from the outside. But if we’re lucky, I’ll be wrong about that, and higher education will play a big role in its own reinvention.

 
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