The options for schooling are numerous and in 2010 we explored several of them. I hope that 2011 continues to offer new and innovative ideas for development of the Intellectual Path.
During 2010, I explored several known options for schooling including home schooling, magnet schools, charters schools and online schools. Each of these has evolved out of a concern that our nations educational system is failing. Costs are rising, almost out of control, and performance by our students is either lagging behind the world, or at best, matching it. But our nation needs leadership in the educational sector and keeping the status quo just isn't good enough.
The four primary alternatives previously explored in 2010 have some things in common from which we can perhaps learn something. Whether it's a home school, a charter school, or magnet school, we find that smaller class sizes matter, and do benefit student performance. We also find with these three alternatives that less bureaucracy and less requirements to meet onerous bureaucratic rules and regulations benefits the students. Where teachers and administrators are held to more direct performance standards, they live up to them! We did see that in many cases, the use of technology can leverage the student's experience, and the case of undergraduate programs, may provide a much less costly alternative to community colleges or universities.
In all cases, we find that the importance of school to the students support group is important. Where students have a strong family around them that is supportive of life-long learning, they tend to be more intellectually curious and generally better students. Tied to this, we did also discuss the importance of a nation generally sharing a set of values and morals. We discussed the 1963 Supreme Court decision that eliminated prayer from our public schools, and accelerated a movement toward our nation looking inward to solve its' problems, not upwards!
Perhaps the most uniform finding in 2010 is that the problems with our nation's schools are complicated, mostly because of the size and diversity in the system. The current public school system attempts to be all things to all people catering to all religions, all scholastic aptitudes, and all other general qualities of the student body. Perhaps this is a situation that is at the root of the problem. Like so many other institutions that get unwieldy and unmanageable as they get big (the federal government comes to mind, or General Motors), the public school system may just be so big that it cannot effectively perform its task. Perhaps as we move forward continuing to look for better solutions, we'll find that just as private businesses change to accommodate customer demand, schools will have to as well. And perhaps that change will include more specialized schools, either in academic concentrations, or even in the trades.
I think also that we'll continue to see a growth in the home school movement. As I've discussed in earlier articles, this is not purely a religious issue, but rather is a method of parents taking direct responsibility for the education of their children. By definition, you have involved parents, and the systems, structures and resources to successfully home school a child are growing and evolving rapidly.
I am aware that the issues facing education of a child are complex, and as the father of six, I'm intimately aware of the issues parents face. I do believe though that we can find solutions to these problems, but to do so, as with so many other things, we need to think truly outside of the box and not be chained to ideas of the past that, although we can learn from them, are holding us back from embracing new and innovative ideas