Thanks to the internet, education is NEVER going to be the same. I can take a Yale class for free in my pajamas?
We have had so much fun this birthday week. The kids have had a great time with their cousins and I have loved visiting with my sister. She only lives four hours away, but we are both so busy homeschooling that we don't visit each other as much as we should. And I just realized I don't have one photo of us together… Typical.
They are leaving in a few days (insert sad sniffs) so we are making the most of our time together. Today the older kids (seen in the photo above) have planned a Nerf gun war at our neighbor's house with their three boys. The kids are going to freeze because it is in the low-30's today. We are not used to the cold, especially when it was in the 70-80's just a few days ago, but the kids don't care and will come home icicles.
I have been really interested in reading books on "solutions" for our "broken" education system and just finished Ron Paul's book: The School Revolution: A New Answer for Our Broken Education System. Love or hate him, he has some interesting and exciting thoughts on the future of K-12 (public and private) and college. The internet has revolutionized education and everything is going to be different for our kids. Even if you find Ron Paul insufferable ;-) I hope you will read this post.
Did you know that there are free online-college classes from top universities available for anyone? Some offer a certificate of completion and others are just for fun, but now anyone can take college courses from amazing professors for free! Imagine the possibility. You children (at any age) can sign up and take college courses at home and see what they love (and hate) without you having to spend a penny of their college fund. They might not get credit, but if they love the course they can retake it at their local college and ace it.
And what about adults? I personally hated sitting through boring lectures and trying to frantically take notes. And when would I find the time? Now I can sign up for a class on Roman architecture taught by a professor from Yale. Did you get that? I can sit at home (in my pajamas) on my computer or iPad, with a coffee, and attend a class taught by a Yale professor for free.
Ron Paul linked two free online-college class sites, Coursera and Edx. I don't know about you, but I didn't get to attend any classes from MIT, Yale, Harvard, UT, Berkeley, or Georgetown. Why in the world did I not know these college classes were available? I love to learn and now I can go back and learn all of the things I didn't get a chance to at Texas A&M. In my pajamas!
But online classes are not just for college or college-bound kids. Ron Paul also mentioned Khan Academy, a completely free online-resource for K-12 grades. Afraid to homeschool because you think you can't teach or it will cost too much money? Khan has a complete curriculum with videos for FREE. Khan is a big deal if you look at its sponsor page, even Bill Gates approves. :-)
So what does this mean about the future of public/private schools and colleges? I don't know about you but I wasted my parents' money the first two years of A&M taking stupid required courses with 400 other kids. Sure, beginning snow skiing on a fake hill covered in bristle brushes in Texas was worth every one of their hard-earned pennies, but I think my kids can do that on their own dime. In fact, my kids could take their first two years online at home during high school and then go off to university to take their upper level courses. If they even need to go off to college.
Can you believe I just said that? If they even need to go off to college? "Blasphemy!" yells the scared technologically-challenged Rita who is still unable to embrace the fact that online classes are here to stay and that the internet has revolutionized learning. Technology is changing everything, and as parents we can't sit around worrying about how we are going to save enough money to send our kids to the most expensive top colleges so that they can mess around and maybe get a degree, move back home (on our medical insurance), and not work.
I wish I were exaggerating, but you know it is true. Times have changed and we have to change with them while keeping our morals and personal responsibilities intact. The days of boring lectures lead by substandard teachers is fading away quicker than we can even imagine. Video classes taught by the brightest and most interesting will be available for everyone, often for free. What a scary/exciting/wonderful/overwhelming world!
As I was reading this book I really got excited about the potential of future education (ask my husband). We could not dream of this when we were kids. However, there is the other side of the coin that we must consider. Things are going to change and change can be really difficult. If one brilliant history high school teacher can record and share all of his lectures with an entire school district, will it be necessary to pay other history teachers that aren't as comfortable with the new technology? Once school districts realize how much money they (and taxpayers) can save by video lectures, the entire public/private school system as we know it is going to change. It has to change. And change can be scary and painful.
Remember when the only way we could mail a letter was by the government-run USPS? Now thanks to UPS, FedEx, email, Facebook, etc. most of us don't even get excited about the mail that ends up in our mailbox. To quote Ron Paul: "The free market provided alternatives, and people shifted their business to those alternatives without even thinking about the effects this would have on the most ancient government monopoly in the United States… Here is the most effective system of reform: voluntary replacement. It is reform that nobody notices."
If you are frustrated by the school system (whether your kids are a part of it or you homeschool) and/or worried about how you are ever going to pay for college for the kids, The School Revolution is an inspiring and encouraging read. There is so much fear-mongering about education out there and it is refreshing to read a positive take on the future of education.
I do want to mention that Ron Paul has his own online curriculum and this book promotes it. But it does not take away from his powerful message. I don't feel so scared of the future of education, and that makes me happy!
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