I have a question for you. It only just occurred to me, probably provoked, as most things in my life now-a-days are by something I read, this time on FEE (the Foundation of Economic Education). There a writer noticed that whereas we used to call a taxi, now we call Uber, whereas we used to reserve a room in a hotel, now we rent an apartment or house from AirB&B, and whereas we used to go to the local movie house or theater to see a particular movie (when was the last time you went? for me, now in my eighties and well passed movie going time, the last time was years ago) now in our own home on our big screen television we choose from thousands, tens of thousands of movies from a Netflix listing, alive as it were, always growing and always evolving for our viewing pleasure.
But here’s my question. I did have one. Why do we still say “go to school”? And why do we no longer say call a taxi? Where is the Uber, AirB&B, or Netflix that ought generations ago to have replaced school? In fact for most of us school is still pretty much in the same fixed, unchanging position that it has held for nearly two hundred years. The question is particularly biting and acute because it is generally admitted that of all the things that go on in school, what school was supposed to be most about, teaching and learning (while maybe still going on in tiny niches, perhaps even pockets of excellence) is rarely the principal activity of students and teachers.
School will be replaced. It’s already happening. In its present form it’s going to disappear because it’s failing its various constituencies, parents, teachers, kids. So what shall we call it, that which will eventually replace the “school” in going to school? For the moment the term homeschooling seems to be what we’re coming up with, but we ought to do better than that for home schools can end up with some of the same faults, some of the rigidity of the schools (those based on the dogma of a religion for example) they would replace.
We need to think of what we really mean by “schooling”? Of what we want for our kids from their time in “school?” We know that our segregating them into brick buildings and cement block school rooms for one hundred years or more has not worked in regard to our stated educational goals. While we have successfully separated kids from the people, from the community from which they might best have learned, we have not provided them with a real learning community in its place.
Isn’t what we want from schooling, not a building but rather a time and a place (an atmosphere?) where kids are helped to hook up with older kids and adults who have the skills and knowledge that the kids want for themselves. That was probably something that would have happened naturally if they had somehow remained in the community, as in most earlier societies.
School now might be best thought of as a filter, or better, a clearing house where kids can go and discover the particular learning environment that corresponds best to who they are now and what they want one day to become. A place, one without too many permanent fixtures, where they would not be primarily burdened as now with what adults have decided they should know and learn, but are are rather helped to discover about themselves who they are and what they most want to learn. Taxis hotels and movie houses haven’t disappeared. Nor will schools entirely. But if schools remain, it will be as taxis, for the few, not for everyone.
The argument above might just as well be made for health care. And that change, evolution is already happening. In fact medical services may be changing even faster than the schools. I no longer see a doctor after a long wait in his office or large hospital waiting room. My medical service today is different from what it was for some 50 years or more. Now I visit a local urgent care clinic or pharmacy in my neighborhood, and usually end up getting better care, and without the wait.