It took me a few days to stumble upon this op-ed from Clark Howard that appeared Thursday on CNN.com, properly lambasting the state of the American education system as a dysfunctional monopoly. I have made no secret of my disdain for my public education. While punctuated by occasional points of light, most of my primary and secondary schooling was a giant blob of pointlessness. I spent most of my time in high school doing anything other than my assigned work. In my evenings, I was surfing the web, reading, writing, and working on my web site—experiences that have been extremely valuable in my life and career. I did these things when I should have been completing my repetitious, pointless, busywork homework assignments.
To this day, I’m glad I was a ‘mediocre student’ who didn’t do his homework. My after-school experiences made me who I am, and all-too-often my ‘schooling’ and its onerous after-school requirements just got in the way.
Having said that, I am a strong supporter of education. It doesn’t have to be this way. Our schools should be among our highest public priorities, and they can be world-class institutions that provide valuable experience for the vast majority of students. To do so, however, we can’t continue to operate our schools in a government-mandated, monopolistic, hyper-micromanaged, cookie-cutter way. We must give students and their parents options, and through the natural process of competition the whole system will steadily improve. Some schools will be more successful than others. Some will cater to specific types of learning and be better suited for certain individual students. Maybe teachers will be free to teach. Maybe students won’t have to have a committee approve their bathroom breaks or prescription medications.
Imagine that. . . .