Commentary: Don’t prop up failing schools

CNN) — Historically the federal government has been a small investor in the nation’s education system. With the recent economic stimulus bill, however, this changed virtually overnight.

There is great danger in the sudden and massive amount of funding — nearly $100 billion — that the federal government is throwing at the nation’s schools. District by district, the budgetary crises into which all schools were plunging created the impetus for long-needed changes.

The most likely result of this stimulus will be to give our schools the luxury of affording not to change. This is borrowed money that we’re pumping into our schools, and it comes at a price. Charging education isn’t changing it.

via Commentary: Don’t prop up failing schools – CNN.com.

Clayton Christensen is on the right track here, which is why the real crisis in education isn’t now, but five to eight years from now.  I wish it were right now, but it’s not.

Yet the reality is that this $100 billion we’ve just dumped into our k-12 school system is only going to subsidize and prolong the current failing system.  It’s not going to fix or radically overhaul the system.

The folks over at Schools Matter might have you think that it’s a bad thing that the philanthro-capitalists are getting involved in schools, and pumping money into charter schools, programs like KIPP, and others.  They may be right.  But on the rare occasions that I talk to people at the top of the economic scale, they indicate that success came in spite of school, rather than because of it.  When I talk (far more often) to people at the middle or at the bottom of the economic scale, I hear stories about how they really didn’t like school, or didn’t learn anything there about anything important.  Once you get past reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, their work in chemistry or clerical work or project management or whatever else they do all came about as a result of engagements with learning after school ended, rather than during.

As for the oft-repeated chestnut that schools exist to train citizens, rather than people for the economy… well.  Voter involvement in local, state, and federal elections has only just recently upticked.  It seems unlikely that schools have any legitimate right to take the credit for this transformation.

David Warlick indicates in his response to this article,

“The fact is that the entire industry [education] is designed to resist change — and this is not entirely a bad thing.  ..and I’m still not comfortable with completely ditching education as we know it and replacing it with something completely new — at least not yet.”

I’m wedded to the idea of being a teacher, and I like the ideas that I’m going to be a teacher in a school.  But I think that schools are on the verge of a massive extinction or transformation, because they are resistant to change.  That’s my guess.

However… this stimulus money we’ve just pumped into the silly school system we’ve got will probably keep the silliness going for a few more years.  My gues is… five to eight.  And then we’ll be out of money, and out of change, and the social media technology of web2.0 will be building the learning media technology of 3.0.  The best schools for 5-12 learning will be online, and parents will abandon middle schools and high schools in droves.

We have until 2014… maybe until 2018.  But I’m not counting on it.

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