Friday, April 28, 2017

Watch 'School, Inc.' on PBS

A new, three-part documentary series on the past, present, and future of schooling is airing now on PBS and streaming at pbs.org. "School, Inc." is the brainchild of Andrew Coulson, an education policy researcher who left a successful career at Microsoft to answer a perplexing question: Why is it that innovation occurs frequently in other areas, but not in education?

Entrenched in a static, factory model of education, American public schools haven't changed much since the Industrial Revolution. "School, Inc." explores the 19th century origins of mass schooling, noting how the Prussian system of compulsory schooling that was ultimately adopted in the U.S. squeezed out other popular forms of education, and prevented ongoing innovation.

Digging deeper into the question of why education innovation lags behind, Coulson explores successful schooling models, both in the U.S. and abroad. He introduces Jaime Escalante, the dynamic math teacher at Garfield High School in Los Angeles whose inspiring story was retold in the 1988 Hollywood film, Stand and Deliver. Esclante's math program was a resounding success, consistently helping students--many from disadvantaged backgrounds--pass the rigorous AP Calculus exam. Coulson explores why, instead of expanding Escalante's innovative and successful educational approaches, the creative teacher was instead hamstrung by union directives, criticized by jealous colleagues, and demoted. He ultimately resigned from Garfield High. 

Escalante's story of halted innovation is juxtaposed with examples across the globe of highly successful, scaleable education breakthroughs. In many cases, these transformative education models are driven by free market principles, an entrepreneurial spirit, and parental empowerment. In his review of the film, Neil McCluskey of the Cato Institute writes: "Freedom, including the ability to make a profit, is crucial to having an education system that works well for children right now, and achieves dynamic, continuous improvement. That is the conclusion Andrew Coulson reached in his studies of education through time and space, and it is what he makes clear in 'School, Inc.'"

Sadly, Coulson passed away last year before "School, Inc." aired, but the message of his film endures: for education to innovate and advance it must move beyond a singular, static model and embrace greatness.

1 comment:

  1. GREAT overview, Kerry! I'll be sharing this on the SHS networks sometime today.

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