Is Public Education Endangered? Will We Evolve Or Die?

I recently presented to a group of teachers in Virginia about the need for educators to look at relevance in their teaching. I shared that we can save time by eradicating the pointless subjects and archaic skills and replace them with skills we know our students will need in their future. There was one participant that got upset with me. She was upset by my comparison of no longer needing a horse and buddy and no longer needing the skill of reading and writing in hieroglyphics to the fact that we no longer need to teach handwriting and traditional spelling. There are just some skills that we need to eliminate from the curriculum even though it is hard. Handwriting and spelling are just two examples of holding on to the "old" when we should be embracing the "new".

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At first, I felt badly about this participant being upset. But then I came to the realization that more people should get upset. Get upset with the people who are unwilling to adapt and change for the betterment of their students. I had a teacher the other day tell me that he still lectures and has traditional homework assignments "because that's the way I teach." Never once did he say anything about the way his students learn. It never entered his mind! Our students are a different breed of individuals. They have grown up in a digital world. These new learners balk at rote learning and memorization. They demand to be creative and collaborative and learn by doing. The 21st-century learner is all about change.

"Education is reaching extinction and we must evolve or die. This extinction level event in public education is directly due to people who can't see the need to give up on old-fashioned teaching styles and teaching unnecessary skills. I would put public education as we know it on the endangered list and predict that education must evolve and do it quickly or we will reach extinction by 2027." -- L. Robert Furman

As any endangered group, there has been writing on the wall of public education for some time. Let's look at an example of a public school day. A child has to wake up, get dressed and go to a school where someone is going to talk at them for a certain amount of time, then give them an individual assignment (worksheets or essays or individual reports) and expect them to turn the assignment in the next day only to repeat the entire process over and over again. On some occasions, there may be a collaborative assignment where students can work with a partner.

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Now think about the predator version of education -- Cyber School. A student can experience everything that he/she would experience in the brick and mortar school, even the collaborative assignment, but the child can do it at his/her own pace, in his/her own home, on vacation, while traveling the world and so forth and so on. Cyber School students are being given tremendous technological opportunities. They are becoming more and more self-motivated and goal-oriented.

So ask yourself this question: What does your public school offer in each separate classroom on a daily basis that a student cannot get from a cyber school experience? And principals, don't fool yourselves by thinking about this question with only your best teachers in mind. If you have 20 classrooms in your school, ask that question about each classroom separately. Then decide how many students you could potentially lose to a Cyber School Program. Your answers will point towards endangerment and possibly the extinction of public education as we know it.