Start The Conversation With The New School
The New School: How The Information Age Will Save American Education From Itself
By Glenn Harlan Reynolds
Encounter Books, 2014
The New Year provides a time for people to set new resolutions and to strive for new achievements. That is why it is a fitting time for Glenn Harlan Reynolds, founder of Instapundit, to release his latest book The New School: How The Information Age Will Save American Education From Itself. The book describes how America’s K-12 and higher education systems must change. However, unlike our new year’s resolutions, which are more often than not bound to fail, Reynolds believes a reinvention of education in America is inevitable. Indeed, the theme of the book — taken from economist Herbert Stein — is, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” Our current methods of educating students cannot go on forever; therefore, they must stop and The New School must emerge.
Reynolds, like many others, believes a bubble has formed in higher education. The bubble was caused for a variety of reasons, most notably government subsidies. “As with any subsidized product, prices rose to absorb the subsidy,” Reynolds writes. However, rising costs are only half of the problem. The real problem is that, for many, the costs of college are surpassing the value that the degree provides. “The generic college degree is today what a high school diploma used to be: a bare ticket to potential entry-level employment, even in fields that used to not require a college degree at all,” he writes. Costs are surpassing benefits. This will cause the higher education bubble to pop because what can’t go on forever will stop.
The K-12 problem is very similar. Our current model was built on an industrial model and “Unsurprisingly, the industrial model of public education has led to an industrial model of labor, complete with powerful unions that make many changes more difficult.” For years now, costs for K-12 education have continually climbed, but outcomes have been stagnant. Reynolds argues that this model is unsustainable. We cannot continually pump more money into education and receive the same results; therefore, this model will stop.
In Reynolds’ view, a time of change is coming to higher education and K-12 education because it must. We simply cannot keep going with the systems the way they are. What will the New School look like? Reynolds believes it will undoubtedly be shaped by technology and the new era will be all about customization, but he refrains from expounding at length. He also eschews policy recommendations that would spur these changes. As he states in the preface, The New School is “more of a conversation starter than a conversation ender.”
Overall, The New School is a great intro to the problems with the American education system. It is short and easy to read, but it only begins the conversation. It is up to us to continue the conversation. We need to discuss how to improve school staffing policies regarding tenure and teacher pay. We need to address the problems that defined benefit pension systems create. We need to look for ways to expand educational options for students. And as I have said before, we need to redefine public education.
I highly recommend you pick up a copy of The New School, continue the conversation, and promote policy solutions for these education problems.