Reinventing Education from the Ground Up

Slow news day here at the Bacon’s Rebellion bunker and command center, so I thought I would indulge in a little outside-the-box thinking. I have extracted the following post from an unpublished (and probably unpublishable) novel, “Dust Mites,” which is set on the Moon in the year 2075. American colonies on the moon are getting restive under the oppressive rule of a distant, corrupt and out-of-touch United States. The novel is mainly an action thriller but each chapter is prefaced by a vignette describing various aspects of life and political economy on the moon.

Writing the novel gave me the opportunity to ask: If lunar colonies had the opportunity to reinvent core institutions from fresh, what might they look like? How would they organize their systems of governance, education, health care, and public safety, etc.? In the following vignette, fashioned as a policy paper drafted by a future American Enterprise Institute, I explore how educational institutions might evolve in Galileo Station, a libertarian lunar colony.

American Enterprise Institute
Policy Paper

Executive Summary: As President Chou intensifies her campaign to bring the lunar territories to heel, supporters of the administration have made an issue of the colonies’ meager investment in public education. Galileo Station, in particular, has been depicted as a free rider that soaks up human capital developed on Earth, benefiting from the investments that the United States makes in schools while expending few resources of its own.

This view is based upon a profound misunderstanding of the nature of education in Galileo Station. It assumes that without government schools, there is no education. In truth, Galiletians have reinvented education as a private-sector system that is far more responsive to consumer demand, delivers higher levels of student achievement and is less expensive than Earth-bound systems where the interests of politicians, teachers unions and educational bureaucrats prevail over those of students. As such, it stands as a rebuke — and an ideological threat — to government-dominated education.

The early settlers of Galileo Station had few children to be educated and the primitive colonial government saw no need to erect a school system. Pioneer parents borrowed from the home schooling movement on Earth, which they supplemented with online course instruction. In time, as the population grew and the number of school-aged children increased, free-lance instructors began offering their services. Since then, the educational marketplace has evolved to a point where parents can choose between a wide selection of private tutors, home schooling collectives, free-lance teachers running single classrooms, teachers cooperatives and private academies organized much like earthside private schools. Educators compete for market share by providing the best educational value based on price and quality.

There is no one-size-fits-all education in Galileo Station. Galiletians have dispensed with the assumption that children must move in lock-step through twelve grades with their chronological peers, learning the same material at the same time. Children master bodies of knowledge when they are ready to, and advance at the pace at which they are capable. Galiletians also have disproved the assumption that education must take place in institutions called “schools” or that education necessarily entails vast expenditures on elaborate facilities, school administrations and redundant municipal, state and federal bureaucracies. Although some traditionally organized schools do exist, 72 percent of all parents hire teachers directly, cutting out the middlemen.

Galiletian teachers teach 17.4 students on average, a teacher-pupil ratio comparable to that of earthside schools. Charging an average tuition of $6,200 per student, teachers net $84,000 a year on average after expenses — comparable to the salary and benefits earned by United States teachers with seniority. Yet Galiletians spend less than half per student that Americans do, and students score significantly higher on international standardized tests. Educational testing and teacher performance measures are administered by the Galileo Station Educators’ Association. Government plays no meaningful role in what is widely considered to be a consumer decision.

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6 responses to “Reinventing Education from the Ground Up”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    Spotsylvania teaches kids for less than 1/2 of that!

    Average salary $40,402
    Average class size: 16-1
    $2500 per kid!!

    methinks you might have forgot all those other costs. !!!

    but I take the point and I support online programs like Acellus Academy which is a fully-accredited K-12 curriculum.

    It still needs a teacher… but it promises to provide custom individual instruction with a teacher stepping in when needed…

    Accellus “bracket” tests which means it asks enough question to be able to identify the specific area where the student needs help/tutoring and then customizes the lessons for that particular kids strengths and weaknesses – something no human teacher could do in a class of 17…

    Accellus also has the potential to help kids in poor neighborhood schools.

    but you’re still going to need teachers… and taxes to pay for them.

    1. Haha, Larry! $2,500 per kid — you have to factor in nearly 60 years of inflation!

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        it’s the other costs… actual basic classroom instruction is about 1/2 the total costs… for many school systems…

  2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Bacon’s article is the brilliant start of a wonderfully important conversation. One that is long overdue, the rebuilding of a thoroughly corrupt system of education in America that leaves half our kids behind while it poisons the rest of our kids, while it bankrupts their parents and the nation’s taxpayers, and enriches those who have built and run the corrupt system and/or feed off of the system, but who never teach, or teach trash.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    I actually AGREE that the evolution of education to online presents opportunities for the US to do a lot better than it has and especially so with kids trapped in abysmal schools usually found serving low income neighborhoods with all the attendant demographic problems like gangs and disruptive students.

    But a few things need to be recognized.

    First that there ARE some VERY GOOD schools in the US despite the seeming tendency to denigrate the entire institution,

    Second – that this country is but one of about three dozen nations that “do” education and do it well compared to the rest of the world. This country, the USA, ranks near the bottom of the top tier pack.

    We are not the best by any standard but we produce a tremendous number of highly-competent, highly-trained workers that put this country in the forefront for innovation and economic prosperity. There is no way we do that if our education system is a failure.

    We can do better, yes… and we have to ..but just recognize that we, as a country, are successful and education is a key component of that success.

    Third – HOW we DELIVER Education will always be an issue. There will always be people who disagree with what is taught (or not) and how it is taught – there are critics and there will always be critics… whether they have constructive and useful criticism that can actually be used to improve education – it’s a mixed bag in my view.

    Fourth – “online” education is not a panacea… per se. “Online” is basically human-generated content – and if the humans generating it are incompetent or biased the software will reflect it also.

    However, “online” generally has a much wider audience from which it to be judged and the more objective and more successful will inevitably be recognized to all.

    Can a child sit a home – with a computer and good software and do better than at a neighborhood school with a human teacher ?

    that’s a question. Anyone got any responses?

  4. I don’t know about sitting at home with a computer; but interaction with the teacher is the key to a good classroom. A ratio of 17.4 kids per teacher would be wonderful on Earth today, let alone in 2075. The real number today is a big part of the problem with public secondary schools in NoVa.

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