In his newest USA Today column, Professor Glenn Reynolds (author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself) shares his thoughts on modern alternatives to the traditional school approach.

…Public schools were designed to be rigid. Back in the 19th century, when Massachusetts Board of Education Secretary Horace Mann toured Europe looking for models of public education to import to America, the one he chose came from Prussia. Inflexibility and uniformity were Prussian specialties, and when Mann brought Prussian-style education to America, those characteristics were seen not as a bug but as a feature.

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

The approach used for his daughter’s schooling is a great example of blending new with old.

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. Did she miss out on socializing at school? Possibly, but at her job she got to spend more time with talented, hardworking adults, which may have been better. (And, as a friend pointed out, nobody ever got shot or pregnant at online school.)

Our experience with the flexibility offered by online schooling was a real eye-opener: You tend to take the restrictions imposed by the public school system for granted, as part of the background, until suddenly they’re gone. I predict that over the next few years, a lot more eyes will open. Public schools will have to work hard if they are to keep up.

Read the original article:
Consider alternative schooling (USA Today)