The Opposite of Education

In commenting on an LA Times story about how high school outsiders become successful adults, Instapundit hits me right where I live:

If high school is an environment that systematically punishes traits that lead to success in the real world, then why not abolish high school? As institutions, they don’t do a very good job of teaching math and history. If they also punish traits linked to innovation then what exactly are high schools good for?

Short answer, they’re good for: A) providing a convenient location to pass out the pills stolen from mom’s medicine cabinet, and B) not much else.

My wife and I are going to have our first child this year, a boy. When I read news and hear anecdotes about where public education is today and where it’s going, I never hear anything that doesn’t make me want to flee screaming from public schools as fast as I can. By the time our son is old enough for school, there’s no reason to think it’s not going to be much, much worse.

My hope for him lies in this: I think we are at the beginning of a great come-apart in American education. People can see what’s going on, they’re tired of “reforms” that never reform anything, and they’re demanding alternatives. Those alternatives, fueled by that greatest enemy of all oppressors, the Internet, are now coming at us at a furious clip. Today, it sounds weird to have your kid taking online classes instead of actually going to a high school, but how weird will it sound in five years? Or ten? There’s no reason to think that the revolution that’s happening right now in online college education won’t work it’s way down the secondary education ladder.

Power is shifting, and shifting fast, from the providers of education to the consumers. By the time my negative-four-month-old son is college age, education “alternatives” like DeVry and the University of Phoenix may not be “alternative” at all. They may be more mainstream than throwing four (or five, or six) years of your life out the window to get a degree than no one in the real world cares about anyway. I say bring it on.

3 thoughts on “The Opposite of Education

  1. You’re so right. My oldest child just turned six, and we tried sending him to school. We ended up pulling him out mid-week in November because we got so tired of it (did you know that they start giving homework assignments to *kinergarteners* these days?? It’s like they’re specifically worried that these kids might end up spending too much time with their families.)

    We’re homeschooling now, and it’s even better than I thought it could be. There are SO many homeschoolers these days that we have tons of opportunities for our kids to get to know other kids (e.g. his Cub Scouts troop is all homeschoolers).

    Now that you’re a parent, you must must must read the book Hold on to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld. It’s one of those books where you don’t see the world the same way after you read it, and, though this wasn’t exactly his intent, he hits the nail on the head with why what’s wrong with the social dynamic at public schools.

    Anyway, great post. 🙂

  2. I agree with Jennifer: HOME SCHOOL!!

    We home schooled our first two sons all the way through high school. Son #1 joined the Air Force, where he was a boom operator (in-flight refueling) and commented how playing so many video games made his job so much easier. Son #2 fell in love with computers at age 3 when we got our first Mac SE, and he has been working at Apple for the past five years, currently at the flagship store in Manhattan.

    We have five more children to go, and next year three of them will be in high school. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Not only can they follow their interests and plow through as quickly as they want to, but they are available for apprenticeships and jobs in their field of choice. Not to mention the self confidence that comes from being with their family, home school group, and society in general instead of behind the high school prison walls.

    BTW… congratulations on your new little man! Your world is about to become something more difficult and more wonderful than you can imagine!

  3. Thanks for the comments, and thanks for the book recommendation. I’m putting it in my to-read queue, along with The Strong-Willed Child and Holy Crap! People Actually Expect Me to Raise This Child! which I don’t think is really a book, but should be.

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