The Koch Network is getting with the times and launching an edu-reform substack. Yay.
The substack is co-hosted by Lisa Snell, director of K-12 education policy for Stand Together, aka the Charles Koch Institute. Previously she spent 23 years as Director of Education at the Reason Foundation. Her co-host is Adam Peshek, who is part of the same Kochtopus, having arrived Jeb Bush's ExcelinEd (formerly FEE). Peshek also works at Yes, Every Kid, a rebranding of some standard reform ideas.
Their new platform is called "Learning Everywhere," and so far, they're playing all the hits. "Time to scrap the factory approach to education" is the first... issue? ...post? What are we going to call these substack things? The subheading is "Individualization, not standardization, empowers learners to thrive," which kind of captures one of the odd whiplashes in the reform movement; I'm betting that while he was at ExcelinEd, Peshek spent a lot of time advocating for the Common Core standards, the one-size-fits-all standardization that Jeb Bush backed right into a conservative buzzsaw. But standardization is no longer where it's at.
The piece starts out with an unintentionally apt story about the Air Force's discovery of the problem with averages. In the early 1950s, the Air Force was having problems with pilots who had trouble flying--turns out that a cockpit built to "average" specs doesn't actually fit anyone, so they changed their approach to cockpit seat design (you can thank this development for the adjustable seat in your car).
This is meant to be a story about how individualization is the key to everything, and I think it works, but I want to point out that while the Air Force redesigned the seating in the cockpit, they did not redesign how the controls worked, or any aspect of the actual plane. They didn't give every pilot the chance to "shop" for a plane design that they liked, nor did they develop an array of planes designed and built by people who had no actual background or training in aviation or manufacturing. They made it possible to make a few small but useful adjustments. That's it.
But the writers are ready to move on to another reform trope. The education system is "by and large, out of date and fits only an imagined 'average child."" This will come as news to all the teachers who spend hours differentiating instruction, or the schools that provide various special services in keeping with IDEA. But the writers stick with the notion that schools are a "mass-produced, one-size-fits-all approach" that somehow "matched the needs and mindsets needed to succeed in what was mostly a factory-based economy." There's a lot of bad ahistorical argument going on here, and it's used to set up this sentence:We live in a time when technology and circumstance require participants in an economy to be nimbler, and we have learned that individualized approaches tailored to personalized needs and interests are far more effective than a standardized model.
Of course, we’d be foolish to spend our time merely trying to align education to the needs of employers. Education should be about learning for life and – perhaps ideally – getting the foundation, skills, and values to be your own boss (if you want). But the misalignment between employer needs and what our system is focused on producing is worth highlighting.