This was a question that came to me tonight, as I was doing my college coursework. I am able to take my college classes online, something for which I am thankful as I have spent a decent amount of time over the last two years travelling for work. (Prior to that, though, I did indeed go the traditional college route, taking classes on campus and living in a dorm with a couple of guys).
Anyhow, I was thinking about how ridiculously convenient online college courses are. You can have a discussion with classmates and your professor via a discussion board, and can submit homework via easy-to-use dropboxes. Not only that, it is easy for professors to post audio and video lessons, as well as handouts, references, and relevant links. In short, there is a wealth of different ways to teach someone a subject. Furthermore, the interface used by my college is simple enough for any child to master.
And that’s what got me to thinking: If it is so easy to build and maintain an educational system online, why haven’t all public schools done this? It is easy to track whether a child logs in and listens to or watches his lessons, and whether he downloads and completes his assignments. Basically, it’s simple to check up on a child. You could have some teachers on staff to Skype with students who needed extra help, and the smart kids wouldn’t have to sit around waiting for the less intelligent to get with the program.
There are some objections, to be sure. How do you know if a child watches a video or listens to an audio clip? But again, how can you actually make sure a child is paying attention in class? (And how can you make him if he isn’t?) And how can you make sure a child doesn’t cheat on a test? What, has cheating never occurred in the classroom? Basically, the problems with the online version of education are simply slightly different iterations of the problems that already exist in real life classrooms (although school violence and sexual predation would likely decline).
And given the ever-declining costs of technology, making education an online experience will certainly be cheaper in the long run, particularly given the bloated costs of unionized government-paid teachers. And an online system allows for more flexibility.
So given the general upside of a technology-based education system, the question that popped into my mind was: Are public schools nothing more than glorified daycares? I ask this because, in my mind, there are really only two things preventing this model of public education from happening: teachers’ unions and parents. And both basically want the same thing. Both want children to be away from home for large portions of the day.
Teachers’ unions want this because it makes teachers relevant. Parents want this because they don’t want their kids around. And so, the paradigm of modern education may not be focused on educating children as effectively as possible, but rather on getting the little rugrats out of the house for a couple of hours every day.