Education’s Next Stage

This space will be light the next few days.  My eldest daughter graduates from college this weekend.  The family is headed down to be with her, pack her up, and bring her back.  In a tough job market for college grads, she has a couple of final interviews that could lead to gainful employment.  Good for me-but really good for her.

A crowd of college students at the 2007 Pittsb...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It will be interesting to hear what the speaker says.  Steve Jobs gave a famously great graduation address to Standford students.  Dick Costolo gave a great talk to Michigan students this year.  Each in it’s own way tells them to be in the moment, and follow their path.  Have pride in being an individual.

Being an individual is under attack these days.  In President Obama’s graduation address to Ohio State, he talked about being wary of people who criticize big government.  Big government doesn’t respect individual liberty, or hold high individual rights.  We have seen that played out in several scandals this week.

Education is an evolving industry.  It seemingly is resistant to change.  But, as others have chronicled in the past few years, there is an undercurrent of sea change in education.  It’s not just virtual, or companies like Udacity.  There is a lot going on at the entrepreneurial level that I have been exposed to.

In the last year, I have had lunch with a women that is marshaling forces together to create change in the educational system in an entrepreneurial way in Illinois.  I have supported her in every way that I could, and hope to be a big supporter of hers as she moves forward.  She has been incredible with the energy she brings to the cause.

Friends of mine are creating innovative startups that re-imagine the classroom in very different ways.  They have launched in beta, and are working the kinks out.  Other people I know are trying to grind through their ideas to bring them to reality.  They are in the education industry and know the pain points.

Others that I know have invested their time and treasure by building a school, or by starting the KIPP movement in Chicago.  They are passionate and trying to make the world a better place.

Years ago, I invested in a company that made student loans more transparent.  That same company is now engaged in identifying and bringing high achieving students to American colleges through an sticky and engaging process.

The stumbling block for all of the above is the government bureaucracy, and the teacher’s union.   It is a monolithic roadblock on the education highway.  But, entrepreneurs are digging trenches right now to create a path around them.

Unfortunately, to create that path the initial target market is often the very wealthy.  The wealthy can afford to pay for innovation.  The poor who need to have access to the innovation the most, can’t.  Just like with things like school choice, the government bureaucracy and militant teacher’s union stand in the way.

But, the good news is if the entrepreneurial company makes it and establishes a beachhead in their initial target market, the technology can become commoditized and work its way down from the wealthy and upper classes to the middle class and then lower classes.  If one is snarky, you might call it “trickle down innovation”.

My kids were very lucky.  They had access to an excellent public school education in the first part of their lives.  In the second half, they went to one of the top private schools in the United States.  They each chose their own paths to college.  My oldest went the classic small liberal arts college route-and did a humanities core-which if taught correctly is an amazing experience.  My youngest enrolled in the top Chinese program in the country and is fluent in the language after her sophomore year.

If the nation’s educational bureaucracy would embrace technology and innovation, every single kid in the United States would have equal access to tremendous resources that would change their lives.  The change in their life, would change the country.  Individuals acting on their own, thinking for themselves, being creative and making life better in the world.  Isn’t that the purpose of education?

thanks for the link Instapundit.  

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