In my previous posting here, about Gordon Brown’s plans to wreck the British economy, I said that all that was one reason I was happy. Here’s another: Brian’s EDUCATION Blog. It’s not for me to be saying how good this is, but I can say that so far I am managing to keep on doing whatever it is I’m doing. I’m not running out of things to say.
For example, I’m already thinking about a post I hope to do soon concerning the vital importance to the development of Silicon Valley not just in a general way of Stanford University, but in particular of just one academic at Stanford University, a man called Frederick Terman. I’ve semi-known about this man for almost as long as I’ve known about Silicon Valley, but there’s nothing like having to write regularly for a specialist blog to make you learn the outlines of a story like this properly, by the simple procedure of writing it out. Quite aside from what others may be learning from it, think what Brian’s Education Blog is doing for Brian’s Education. The ambiguity of the title is entirely deliberate.
And what about the writings of others that I might otherwise have missed? My favourite new writing discovery this week is Colby Cosh. He’s done two pieces this week on educational themes, both excellent. This is a take on one of the minor weaknesses (slightly weird parentally implanted beliefs) that sometimes goes with a kid being home-schooled, and on the major strength, ditto (very good education).
And this is an essentially economic critique of the whole idea of schools as we now know them which I think is right on the money, money being one of the things Cosh talks about. I’ve already quoted from this over at BEdBlog. Here’s another bit:
… If you were designing an education method from scratch you’d never dream of having hundreds of kids in one giant building like a workhouse or a Panopticon prison, would you? You’d probably get together with ten or twelve of your neighbours, people who have kids roughly your child’s age, and you’d hire one person to handle their education. Think of the background checks you could do on your candidates, the multi-tier interview process you could organize. Worried about paying the salary of a tutor? Well, I don’t know about where you live, but my provincial government spends about $5,000 a year educating a child, according to a back-of-envelope calculation. That’s not an unreasonable amount, but if you were given that money and allowed to spend it as you please, do you think you could do better?
That’s more or less what I see happening… increasingly radical forms of “school choice”, the creation of a free market for tutor labour, innovative community arrangements. Flatter educational structures without all the paperwork. An outflow of schoolwork from the factories to – well, I don’t know; it seems to me, just for starters, that there are a whole lot of old people rattling around big houses who would almost be willing to pay to have the place full of children during the day. Or you could simply let a parent with a large house host the class, and allow their child to join for free. A finished basement would be more than large enough, really, for the kind of classes I’m imagining. …
Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, I’ve got into the habit of typing “education” into google and seeing what floats to the top. Usually it’s some ghastly governmental, er, item, and last night was no different. But honestly, what is there to say about some piece of politico-educational chair re-arranging like this? One lot of politicians think that someone in charge of some schools in Ottawa (a Mr Beckstead) should be fired. Another lot of politicians think he shouldn’t. Money is mentioned a lot, education hardly at all. Something to do with how quickly inner city schools are being shut down and how quickly new schools are being erected in the suburbs. By the government. As they say in parts of the USA, well whoop-de-do. Maybe I ought to be interested, but all I can really think to say is that in Colby-Cosh-Brian-Micklethwait world, these things would take care of themselves. I’m afraid Mr Beckstead is not going to get any mentions on BEdBlog, and this is definitely the last you’ll be reading about him here, unless some Canadians surprise us with some comments about why we should care about him.
In general, I find that all the interesting action in education is taking place underneath the politics, so to speak, in the form of local initiatives that make sense for the people directly involved. The nearest thing to a political-type news story that I have found seriously interesting is the so-called Teach First scheme, which although it is aimed at making some very bad state schools (of exactly the sort that Colby Cosh criticises) somewhat less bad still makes a lot of sense to me. Basically it’s sticking posh young men from posh universities in crap schools for a couple of years before they duly get their posh jobs in the City. Good idea, at both ends. More about this, and about how I heard about it, here.
Although I have to struggle to stay awake when confronted with nationalised education policy, “Globalised” education policy, that is to say, the ongoing attempt to create a global Ministry of Education, is, on the other hand, extremely interesting, and also of course extremely sinister. I’m definitely going to keep an eye on that story as it unfolds. Very slowly, I hope and pray. With luck, by the time the damned machine is in place, real education of the Colby Cosh sort (which is now spreading like wildfire throughout the Third World) will be up, up and away.