That is, apart from national and global arguments on the best pedagogy, education has always comes down to a transaction arising between participating human beings. Public schools were designed to efficiently house that learning. One teacher was expected to simultaneously transmit skills and knowledge to groups of 20-60 young people. I’ve heard that nuns could do so with larger groups.
It seems to me that the public school and libraries worked for the majority of students in 20th century USA. Unless you were unlucky and born into a district with poor schools, you were likely to graduate with a set of skills and knowledge the economy valued. By the end of the century, after all, our workers were the most productive on earth, and many enjoyed a decent standard of living.
Woe unto you in 20th c. USA if you were one for whom the schools did not work. Drop-outs and truants, left to the influence of vulgar popular culture (movies, tv, rap, etc.), were more likely to end up in prison, on drugs, or in a purgatory of “dead-end jobs.” Outside the regulating and normalizing influence of 20th century (web 1.0) USA schools, a young person would American would find it harder to succeed.
In, 20th century US public schools, then, when all education was local, the majority of youth were “successfully educated.”
In 21st c. US public schools, when education is predicted to grow increasingly virtual (web 2.0) one wonders what percentage of public school students will continue be “successfully educated.” Can schools still serve the majority, and do we even have reason to expect that with new technologies, most or all students might be well-served by schools?
This article in Teacher magazine describes how Apple is tentatively moving iTunes U into public k-12 school districts. Given some basic hardware and infrastructure, a local school’s cultural capital–its quality instruction–is given a global, as well as a local, audience. And the cultural riches of the global network of participating schools become freely available to local students–what a boon!
Let’s hope Barack’s first public works put all our districts online, including the poorest district. (“Online at last, online at last, thank God almighty, online at last.”) Most school-age American kids know about or have an ipod. So a real tool for education is sitting idly in kids’ hands. With free resources like these, it would seem that schools can better service the particular requirements of each learner, those with special needs as well as the especially bright ones.