Fewer schools, more community centers?

by Bruce Kasanoff on October 15, 2010

In a perfect world, we would give students more freedom regarding when, where and how they best learn. This raises the twin possibilities that we would need fewer – or smaller – schools, but more community centers where students could gather and interact.

Think of a home-schooled student who spends much of her afternoon doing gymnastics and singing in a choir, and you get the basic idea. There is a real value to interacting with peers. There also are some activities – like singing in a choir – that you simply can’t do alone.

But as we create highly effective, individualized programs for teaching subjects like languages and math, many students will do better with such programs than sitting in a class of 30 being either bored or lost. They can study at home, at a library, in a community center, or even in a park. Sure, they will still need to check in periodically with a teacher, but many won’t need to spend five days a week in a classroom.

Right now, we put nearly all students into traditionally organized classrooms, and that simply doesn’t make sense either from an educational perspective or a financial one. Wouldn’t it be better to invest more money into differentiated instruction and less into rigid (literally) classrooms?

By the way, similar trends seem to be impacting libraries. Less space is needed for books, and more is needed for gathering places where people can actually talk out loud and collaborate.

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