Let’s consider for a moment what many readers will find to be a politically incorrect position: because of cheap computers and the Internet, the ability to solve problems ad hoc has become more efficient than teaching kids about problems and issues that will never face them. As a result, the United States has let itself become less competitive by putting so much money into a product (a kid) making both its cost and its ability globally uncompetitive. So, instead of putting more effort into making globally competitive products, we put more effort into blaming those who are smarter at using technology that was mostly invented here.
If the idea is to give everyone a nice comfortable pension, if the same money invested each year in a typical kid’s education was instead invested in an IRA, it would give that kid a very comfortable living upon reaching age 65.
Well this is a terrible position to take, don’t you think? It treats our children like capital goods and denies them any ability to excel, dooming them to mediocrity.
My Mom (Mrs. Cringely to you) once said, “I may not have been the best mother, but at least I got all my kids through school.”
“No you didn’t,” I replied (this is a true story, by the way). “We would have made it through school with or without you.” And we would have.
Not wanting to put too much of a Libertarian spin on it, because I am certainly not a Libertarian, this is a fact that is missed by so many people. There will always be achievers, whether they go to public schools, private schools, home schools, magnet schools, charter schools, or no schools at all. While it is fine for society to create opportunities for advancement, what’s more important is removing BARRIERS to advancement. And for the most part that’s not what we are about.
What we tend to be about as a society is building power structures and most of those power structures, including schools and governments, are decidedly reactive. This is not all bad. After all, the poster child for educational and government proactivity in the 20th century may have been the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Related: Moore’s Law, Culture & School Change.