The online schools that are popping up all over the country are there because of a loophole in education funding that allows companies to siphon money from school districts to create sub-par online learning systems.
This is a common problem in education because there is so much money to be had — education budgets are huge — and there is no sense of what works and what doesn’t. So the people who are most clever about getting money are the ones who get the majority of the education budgets.
Self-directed learning does not cost much money at all. It costs time. But that would put a lot of education companies out of business In fact, the business of education looks to me to be preying on how no one will admit that our education system is not working.
Here are some particularly egregious examples.
1. The master’s degree in education
Why does anybody need a master’s degree in education?
There is no evidence that anybody who’s received a master’s degree has had any solution to any public school problem ever, because we haven’t found anything that works in the last 30 years of people getting master’s degrees.
The master’s degree costs a lot of money, and they lead to jobs that don’t pay enough money to support anybody in the large cities where teachers can make the biggest differences as administrators.
And, we don’t need teachers getting master’s degrees because the Khan Academy is one of the most effective teaching tools in the world, and it’s all taught by someone who has no degree in teaching.
So as far as I can tell, the master’s degree in education is for people who give money to education programs so that the education programs can lobby for more people to have master’s of education so that the education program can make more money. It’s circular to me.
2. Cursive writing
It’s clear that we don’t need handwriting, let alone cursive writing. Cursive writing is going to go the way of calligraphy.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of companies that produce lots of teaching material for cursive writing, and they’re not going down without a fight.
Most recently, they’ve advanced the idea that you need to teach cursive writing in school because then kids will do better filling out Scantron tests.LH This is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard.
We already know that the Scantron tests are despicable ways to measure a student’s development, and now, in addition to teaching to the test, cursive writing companies are advocating that we waste kids’ time teaching them how to cursive write so that they can fill in the blanks. I can’t believe anybody is still buying these course materials.
3. School loans
We all know that the college loan situation is a complete disaster. College is overpriced for what you get for your money , and kids are graduating with way too much debt for them to function as a normal adult in society.
It turns out that the biggest investors in Sallie Mae are university pension programs, which means that the universities are getting paid twice through Sallie Mae; once when they get the student via a loan, and once as investors in the institution that collects on the loan. So at this point, it looks like Sallie Mae is more about sustaining a financially unviable university structure instead of funding the education of students.
One of the biggest barriers to having a real discussion about the benefits of school versus homeschooling is that so much industry is tied to the idea that kids need to be in school.
It reminds me a lot of trying to get Congress to vote against guns. So much of their campaign money and conservative clout comes from the gun lobby that it’s nearly impossible for most of them to vote against it.
The same is true for government officials involved in schools. We’re asking them to assess the efficacy of school itself, which would put them out of a job if they were selflessly honest. Layer upon layer of conflicted interests are what prop up today’s school system, and nobody is protecting the kids.
4. Reading programs.
Maybe the barrier to changing education is the money people throw at it. You know how my youngest son learned to read? By reading. I didn’t teach him. No one taught him. He needed to read to play video games, so he figured it out. And Lucy Calkins, an educator who has spent her life figuring out how to teach kids to read and write, has shown that educated parents do not need to teach their kids to read. They will learn on their own.
That would put a lot of reading materials companies out of business. Or maybe we should funnel our tax dollars to Minecraft so that all kids would have a real reason to read. Because kids don’t want to learn to read so they can read books that don’t interest them.
Which brings me to that photo on top. It was a night I couldn’t get my kids to stop reading and go to bed. People magazine. They are fascinated. Why do so many people get surgery? Why is Michelle Obama angry? Is it true that the dog saved the boy’s life?
There discussion about education is not real. Because the people who lead the discussion are in education reform and they want to continue receiving money for creating programs that do not encourage self-directed learning.
As a homeschool parent it takes concerted effort for me to block out the cacophony of voices telling me which education reform program will work for me. I need to remind myself it’s all rooted in self-interest. Educators do not benefit from education reform. Education companies will go out of business if parents really start moving toward education reform.
Self-directed education is not fancy or glitzy or data-driven. It’s a discarded People magazine fifteen minutes past bedtime.