Ben Malisow


By Khendra Murdock | July 17, 2010 at 5:50 PM PST

Oh boy...that's way too smart and will make way too much sense to people who want to make everyone exactly the same and ignore the reality of individual differences. They will also really go nuts over the socialization someone who was home-schooled for most (but not all) of my pre-college years, I'd be rich if I had a dime for every time I heard that I wouldn't be "properly socialized" by spending so much time outside of the common classroom setting. It really shocks these people that I'm not smoking crack or chained to a table in a basement. :)

By Me | July 17, 2010 at 6:02 PM PST

Heck, I've spent most of my life trying to figure out how to chain myself in the basement so I could smoke crack all day.


Thanks for the comment, Khendra-- it's great to get input from someone not conditioned by the system.

By E Adrian Van Zelfden | July 17, 2010 at 7:07 PM PST

Now with this one, I feel you are completely right. In approximately 6,000 years of recorded history, government schools have only been around for about 150 years, a tiny blip. As you pointed out, the infrastructure cost is enormous, and the quality is spotty at best. This thing called the internet got invented, and it has the horsepower to improve educational content enormously, reach everybody, and cost only a trivial amount. How can the government schools survive that kind of competition. They'll try, but . . .

By Me | July 17, 2010 at 7:52 PM PST

Thanks, Adrian! Well said.

By Rose Marie Antonatos | July 18, 2010 at 10: 23 AM PST

If the teacher's union can't control it they'll do everything in their power to fight it by lobbying to make a one size fits all program, which is a recipe for disaster.There is a big push for national standards, which will only complicate matters, probably cost more money and provide a false sense of security that everything is alright in the U.S public education system. Conscientious parents want more control over their child's education and socialization. Online education provides not only a plethora of information but strengthens the bond between parents and children.

By Me | July 19, 2010 at 1:26 AM PST

True words, Rose.

By Kathrin Byard | July 22, 2010 at 2:43 PM PST


As far as having homogenized content – good luck with that. The disparity in classes is not only caused by differences in teacher quality, but differences in parent quality as well. Example: California has sex education that actually talks about sex (crazy, I know) – both in terms of physical facts (i.e. – here’s how your body works) as well as the social/psychological/emotional aspects. Texas, however, has “Red Sex Ed,” abstinence-only programs which talk more about the value of marriage (which is specifically defined as a lifelong union between a man and a woman) than it does about the physical act of sex. (Ironic and hysterical considering Texas is among the highest states in both divorce rate and teen pregnancy.) These sorts of discrepancies do not stem from teachers’ knowledge of or ability to teach the subject matter; they come from parents’ willingness or unwillingness to have their children learn about them. So if the idea is to select the very best curriculum, I don’t think we’d ever get past agreeing on what the best curriculum is.

As for infrastructure/social harm, I don’t think doing away with physical schools will eliminate either of these aspects. First of all, for most families schools provide more than education – they are tax funded daycares as well. For single parent families or families where both parents work, children would still need a place to go during the day. Whether this means an actual tax funded daycare (as I suspect would happen if there were that many kids who needed a place to go during the day), or private daycare, children would still be rounded up in a single building where they would have to interact with one another. And in the case of a tax funded daycare, the infrastructure expenses would remain. Also, while I agree that there are many negative aspects of forced socialization, school is also where most kids meet their friends. At least in my experience, friends are typically met in elective classes/extra-curricular activates where there is a common interest (i.e. – band, track, swim team, etc.). I’m sure most parents and kids would want to keep these activities available. Without a school, these activities would probably happen at a community rec center or the like (again, tax funding).

So, let’s put all that together. You are a single and/or working parent who needs a place to stash your kids while you’re at work. You can drop them off at a daycare – which may or may not be publically funded and where they will have to socialize with other children – and leave them there all day. But, if you want them to have the benefit of a music/dance/art/sports program, you will have to leave work in the middle of the day, pick them up from daycare, and deposit them at the local rec center, before dashing back to work (obviously this wouldn’t be the case in every family – only the ones that really love their kids) – again, social interaction and public funding. At the end of your work day, you pick your kids up from the daycare/rec center, and head home – where they can now start their schoolwork (the curriculum of which you probably won’t agree with). So besides the problem of your kids not having a chance to even look at their schoolwork until the end of the day – when they are tired and less likely to concentrate – there is also the problem of you being so tired from work and so busy making dinner, doing your family’s laundry, and getting your kids to bed, that you won’t have the time/energy to help them with their schoolwork.

So, while I agree that specialization leads to an improved product, I think most parents would sacrifice the optimal education program, daycare, and rec center, for the convenience of a single location that does a half-ass job of all three.




By Me | July 25, 2010 at 9:43 AM PST


Thanks, Kathrin! Well said...but I have to disagree....with almost every point.

- The homogenization of content, as I pictured it, would still be left to states, or even school districts, at least for the near future, so I apologize for not being clear about that. Of course, eventually, I'm fairly certain "good" curricula will emerge as preferable victors, in the eyes of parents, and those programs would be under greater demand-- if a parent in Ohio wants their kid to get a high school degree from Montana, that should not be a problem if it is completely Web-based.


- As a taxpayer, I'm not interested in funding daycare. Really, we shouldn't be conducting the sort of social engineering where we subsidize one family choice to the detriment of another (those who have children should not get more government benefits than those who don't). Moreover, the technology can overcome perceived limitations associated with leaving kids at home during the day, too: webcams, GPS units, and 'net-ready phones could let parents know exactly where their kids are at any time of day (or night)-- and observe them. And that's only a suggestion based on retail-available, off-the-shelf products that exist right now; if we went to a distributed-learning model, parent-paranoia products would flood the market almost instantly. With the reduced cost of maintaining expensive infrastructure (schools), families could decide to use their new-found wealth (in the form of less taxes) however they saw fit...including purchasing high-tech nannying equipment.

- I don't care about buying the opportunity for kids to have friends, either. That's not the place of the taxpayer: if parents (or kids) want to do that, they should be free to pay for it-- but I shouldn't have to. We've tried the model where we all pay for extracurriculars such as music and sports and other non-educational let's try another model. If we end up with a generation of otaku, at least they will be quiet and harmless and good with computers.

- If parents have to "help" their kids with schoolwork, as you mentioned, then the school is necessarily failing. Why we've tolerated such a bizarre level of success from schools (where extra, individualized learning takes place outside of the school, in the form of "homework") for so long is beyond me. Either the program is teaching the kid in the required amount of time, or it's not-- requiring more work, beyond the program, means the program is not accomplishing what it's designed to do.