More on the Future of Education: High Road vs. Low Road

20 Aug

This is somewhat of a follow-up to my previous post on the future of higher education. But it really deals with primary and secondary education.

Media companies, according to the New York Times, are beginning to look at primary and secondary school content as business opportunities. The market is worth about $7 billion, including teacher’s guides, lesson plans, etc.

The Discovery Channel is getting into the market, as is (disturbingly) Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Murdoch says he’d be “thrilled” if 10% of his company’s revenues came from the education market.

One executive of Pearson, billed as “the world’s largest education and learning company,” describes it as “an act of ‘creative destruction.’ By this I mean we’re intentionally tearing down an outdated, industrial model of learning and replacing it with more personalized and connected experiences for each student.”

This disturbs me.  I get that the Internet is a disruptive technology that will reshape education. But I worry that this is backdoor promotion of consumerism, much like Max Barry’s wonderful dystopian novel, Jennifer Government, in which children attend schools sponsored by McDonald’s, Mattel, etc. They even wear uniforms with their respective corporate logos and their last names are the names of the sponsoring corporations.

On the other hand, the Internet also gives us free resources like the Khan Academy.

Should education be a for-profit or non-profit activity, no matter how it’s delivered?  Is there room for both approaches? What’s the appropriate mix, particularly for public schools?

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