The Future Of Education After CV
We’ve been advocating the Education Revolution since our founding 31 years ago. Our mission is to make learner-centered education available to people everywhere. With that in mind we have established a website that is #1 on Google for alternative education and for 15 years we have had an online course for people who want to start new learner-centered alternatives. This has led to the establishment of more than 100 new educational alternatives. We see them as seeds, models that can help spread the Education Revolution.
So, little could we imagine that practically overnight we would have gone from 3 1/2% of students homeschooling to 96%! Some may say it isn’t homeschooling, but there’s no denying that it is a whole new paradigm for most people.
The whole idea of predicting the future is clearly a nearly impossible process, as recent events have shown. But it is important that we at least guess about the future of education in order to be better prepared to work with it.
As you may know, many years ago John Holt, after trying to reform schools, gave up on them and wrote the book Teach Your Own, introducing the modern movement of homeschooling. I knew John fairly well and had many discussions with him about whether schools could be based truly on the interest of the learner, in a way similar to the concept that he had pioneered, “unschooling.”
One question I asked him back then was whether he was OK with parents who did “school at home” in a very structured way. One example of that was the fundamentalist Christians who told me back then that they couldn’t unschool because of “original sin,” what they considered was the human tendency toward doing wrong and evil things.
Holt told me that he thought that the students would teach the parents how to teach them. And if that failed they would just give up and send their children back to Christian schools.
History seems to have backed Holt’s prediction. Today one of the fastest growing forms of homeschooling is unschooling. In fact, there are millions of Christian and formerly more structured homeschoolers who say they are unschooling.
So how does this relate to our current situation? With perhaps more than 45 million of the 50 million USA students learning from home, and maybe more than a billion around the world, what will happen after this crisis abates?
Of course, the people in the traditional state school establishment are doing everything they can to maintain their control of education. It is a top-down, authoritarian approach that is not generally learner-centered. It is based on the idea the “teacher knows best” what students need to learn. They have given students homework. They are giving assignments online. They are doing “talking head” lectures.
But this will probably get old fairly quickly. One survey showed that more that half of the families and students are already ignoring this approach. The problem is that the teachers do not have a monopolistic, captive audience as they do in school. The student can vote not to do it with their feet or their fingers and their parents will get tired of making them do it.
Meanwhile what has been happening at home? For one thing, children will be much happier. They will be learning how to entertain themselves, to do more things that interest time. In some cases, this will be by using the Internet, but in others it will be completely offline, with fantasies, games, play in their yards, etc. As Holt suggested, their children may teach them how to teach.
One might say that this is just like summer vacation, but for many wealthier families it isn’t at all! They were used to sending their children to summer camp the moment school was over. Now they have had to learn to live with them, listen to them, do things with them.
What about growth in learner-centered education? Of course, many of our schools have gone online, as have the traditional schools. Some have found ways to continue to be interactive, even have democratic meetings. In some cases outside families have discovered our learner-centered schools and their numbers have grown. But many of our schools are used to being low-profile and haven’t been discovered. We need to think about this.
One dramatic example of what is starting to happen is with one of our member organizations and an AERO Conference sponsor, Outschool,, a provider of supplementary and homeschool curriculum and activities. As this process began to unfold they had they had 8,000 students and 1000 teachers, with a large spectrum of offerings online. But in the first week of the outbreak they suddenly gained 25,000 students and were seeking 5,000 teachers! I haven’t heard from them recently and don’t know what their numbers are now. Obviously, as people discover that this approach exists, it could grow quickly.
Now we get to the trickiest part: What will happen as things normalize?
Many families will desperately want to go back to the traditional system. It’s what they grew up with and what they were used to. The people in the educational establishment will also want to get their power and control back. Their school finances and paychecks depend upon that. That will undoubtedly account for most families and students.
However, there will be a certain percentage of people who will have noticed that their children were happier learning a home, that there was less family strife. They may also have noticed that their children found some very creative things to do, perhaps things they never thought they were capable of. Those people may not be inclined to go back to the status quo. If they decide to continue homeschooling, or look for a learner-centered school, this could be the tipping point.