The New School

[Amazon Link]

I noticed that the Dimond Library at the University Near Here owned this slim volume from Glenn Harlan Reynolds, aka Instapundit. I very much enjoyed his book An Army of Davids way back in 2006. It's not often you get a chance to read Glenn in a format longer than his typical blog post.

The book, short as it is, adapts two previous works: one on the higher education crisis, the other on K-12 problems. In both cases, there is a theme of unsustainability, and not the mushy kind that environmentalists prattle about. Glenn's favorite saying is (Herbert) Stein's Law: "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop."

There are any number of trends in the US education "system" that can't go on forever. At the college level, costs keep increasing, along with the debts incurred by victims students. Yet the outcomes remain mediocre, with graduates moving on to unemployment and underemployment. (The problem is especially bad in law schools, apparently: they produce far more graduates than the market can bear.)

At the K-12 level, things are similar: ever-increasing costs, never-improving actual education. The stranglehold of government on schooling at this level is greater, and (hence) the problems are less tractable. Still: Stein's Law. It's hard to see how things can continue this way.

So, what's predicted for the "new" school? Glenn's outlook is kind of hazy. It would be nice if we got away from the Procrustean ideal: one size fits all, all students moving through the same curriculum in the same time in the same way. To a certain extent, technology offers a (partial) way out: cheap courses that can be taken on your own schedule. If one course (say) in Python programming doesn't fit your learning style, you can move on to a different one.

Glenn is an engaging writer, but the book doesn't offer much in the way of new observations. At least for insights about the future of college education, I'd recommend Kevin Carey's The End of College instead.

Last Modified 2015-10-14 5:27 AM EDT