School Is Obsolete

Copyright © 2013 Karl M. Bunday, all rights reserved.

Technological and cultural changes are making school obsolete.

An increasing number of observers think that schools are no longer needed for instructing the young.

Lewis Perelman, a former classroom teacher and a follower of technological trends in worldwide business, puts it this way:

[Current reform efforts are as if business leaders of the 1890s] instead of investing in Ford and Delco and Goodyear, instead of lobbying for paved roads and traffic lights and parking lots, put millions of dollars into 'business-stable partnerships,' 'wrangler of the year' awards and 'break-the-mold' horse breeding demonstrations.

As ridiculously shortsighted as this sounds, it accurately reflects how technologically blind the past decade's costly and futile education 'reform' movement will appear to future historians. For a technological revolution is sweeping through the U.S. and world economies that is totally transforming the social role of teaching and learning. . . . In its aftermath, most of what now passes for education 'reform' will appear as useful to economic security in the 1990s as the Maginot Line was to military security in the 1940s.
Lewis J. Perelman, School's Out (New York: Avon Books, 1992), p. 20

A Nobel Prize winning industrial researcher puts it this way:

If growth in productivity continues to undermine future employment opportunities, what should people teach their children? Not an easy question in an age of revolution. With so much changing, can any concerned parent assume that success in life will depend only on admission to the right college?
Arno Penzias (winner of 1978 Nobel Prize in physics), Harmony: Business, Technology & Life after Paperwork (1995), p. 49

A student of Jean Piaget's who has spent most of his career researching learning at MIT concludes:

In principle, the traditional public school has the potential of ensuring equal opportunity for everyone. . . . The situation once again evokes an analogy with the Soviet economy. The USSR used to boast that all its citizens had jobs and a degree of social security. It proclaimed that it protected everyone. . . . I do not see that School can be defended in its social role. It does not serve the functions that it claims, and it will do so less and less.
Seymour Papert, The Children's Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer (1993)
Papert has since written another book on the future of education, The Connected Family, which makes clear that while Papert expects schools to continue to be used as a matter of parental preference (as he notes that his own grandchildren are attending school outside the home) but a growth in family-style learning, with or without school, is possible and desirable with new technologies.

A leading developer of computer software (you may be using one of his company's products right now) notes:

The [information] highway will also make home schooling easier. It will allow parents to select some classes from a range of quality possibilities and still maintain control over content.
Bill Gates, The Road Ahead (1995), p. 198

Do you agree that schools are on their way out, but the people who run them don't know that yet? Or do you think that schools still have a vital role to play in the next century? Please let me know what you think.

[Last revision 9 March 2013]

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This School Is Dead: School Is Obsolete page is copyright © 2013 Karl M. Bunday, all rights reserved.

A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another: and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body.
John Stuart Mill On Liberty (1859)
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