New Wings for “Schooling is Like Flying” Analogy

1 09 2007

A stray analogy I had dubbed “School Choice: A Bumpy Ride or Getting Bumped, Both Wrong Answers” is starting to sound worth developing — see
the Sept 3 New Yorker and see if this reminds you of nationalized schooling:

Like consumers of regional utilities or like drivers who tolerate bad traffic day after day, fliers have accommodated themselves to misery. It’s little wonder, then, that the air-travel market rarely punishes an individual airline for failing to get people to their destination on time: consumers assume, with good reason, that the options are interchangeably awful.

. . . Furthermore, in the short run more competition could actually make things worse for customers: it would mean more flights, a greater burden for the air-traffic-control system, and possibly more delays.

In other words, we’re stuck with the current system, because it isn’t really in any airline’s interest to try to change it. As long as no airline makes a dedicated effort to distinguish itself from the pack, all the airlines can stay lean, even at the expense of quality.



7 responses

1 09 2007

Nice, but it also made me think of this Popular Science article about a guy starting an a la carte airline.

And speaking of a la carte, could a similar analogy be made somewhat to the cable companies?

1 09 2007

See, I LOVE this! Thank you sam, it fits — and talk about a “charter” flight, this is a lot like a “charter” school in its rethinking of and experimentation with new delivery models.

Tell me more about the cable company idea — cable versus satellite you mean? Breaking the public monopoly with competition?

3 09 2007
3 09 2007

Re: a la carte education —

John Seely Brown, national consultant, co-founder of the Institute for Research on Learning and former chief scientist of Xerox Corporation, comments that, “Maybe the time has come to take a bold move and ask, could we radically rethink what schooling, formal learning and informal learning, could be all about.”

This shift includes movement by educational institutions towards more consumer-friendly educational processes. The subsequent changes also open arguments about what is necessary for success in educational curriculums.

. . .Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright fears an educational system based on “a la carte learning” will fail to give students a sound base of knowledge and skills. She also is troubled by the idea that distance learning and Internet resources can be an adequate substitute for an inperson community of learners.

“I am definitely into passion-based learning, but I start talking about the Soviet Union and some students don’t have a clue,” says Albright.” What has happened to our common body of knowledge? I have students who can’t spell and can’t even proofread what the computer spell-check hasn’t gotten right.”

. . .Pioneering a hybrid program in northeastern Pennsylvania is Bonnie Culver Ph.D., director of the low residency creative writing program at Wilkes University. The online program mirrors the real experiences of a writer’s working life, where students receive an assignment, work on their own and conduct follow-up sessions with editors. . .

“Our students earn a masters of arts degree in creative writing via this post graduate course, which is fully accredited,” says Culver. “Working at home mirrors a writer’s work world, and allows writers to come and go and plan in advance. The course is very product based and hands-on, and includes both writing and business instruction. The format is great for students who cannot pick up and leave their job to earn their masters degree.”

When the program kicked off in 2005, 24 students enrolled with 19 more joining in six months. The staff of nationally based instructors also has flexibility about when they work, and this approach allows Wilkes to offer a superior faculty pool.

“Wilkes hopes this hybrid will be a model for other programs, with a virtual community of on-line of writers and instructors,” says Culver.

5 09 2007

As to the cable question, I don’t like the idea that I’m basically paying for channels I don’t watch. I don’t want to pay to not watch home shopping. I don’t want to pay for religious broadcasting that I also don’t watch. There are various other channels that I pay for that I would gladly trade for channels I would watch. I’m not really happy with my cable service, and I feel I’m already spending too much money on it, mostly paying for things I absolutely do not want to help support in any way much less watch. I know there exist channels that I would prefer. Why can’t I buy just the channels I want to watch? Why must I settle for the packages the cable company is willing to put together?

As to your last comment, I love the idea of a la carte learning. I like to imagine small schools that specialize in things, kids getting to approach it how they want. I like the idea of more small schools, some of which will tend to specialize or maybe just lean a certain way.

5 09 2007

Chafing at the bit, are you? 🙂
I feel that way about my landline phone now. It costs almost as much as my cell phone and I feel like it gives me nothing anymore. It’s all taxes and fees, and payback to old companies for old technology investments but no actual value to me now. Yet we’re old fogies feeling trapped by tradition — if you own a home and have jobs and a middle-class place in a stable community, how can you not have a regular PHONE, something like that. . . it took me a couple of years past reading the dead-tree newspaper delivered to my driveway every morning, to finally cancel the subscription and for us it was psychologically a really big deal, since we’re both former newspaper reporters and media liaisons.

I feel sure that school reform is hampered by those same buried ties to tradition, that all the sacrifice previous generations made for us to “go to school” and “get a good education” is like this psychic stone we drag around through our own parenting and our voting, etc. It’s really hard to let go of those things and sometimes the smaller symbolic things are the hardest. It takes a long time and a lot of new thinking and adjusting, almost like a period of mourning?

I’ve been watching this clutter show lately — on one of those cable style channels I wouldn’t have chosen, but since it’s bundled in, sam! — and in every episode, husband and wife are attached to all this STUFF that’s just burying them and keeping them from enjoying what they really want and need in their home. The show is really about getting (usually young) parents to let go of the overwhelming weight of what they’ve inherited and collected and just accumulated willy-nilly over the years, so they can “be “free” with their kids to make new, purposeful choices and collections and traditions, too.

It’s really hard though, every week. More about feeling than thinking. I wonder if that insipid “nanny” show is based on the same idea of getting people to let go of their subconscious parenting dysfunctions inherited and accumulated from the culture? (I can’t bear to watch it but that’s my impression from the promos.)

It seems to me that school traditions are like that, a crushing burden of clutter in the way everywhere we turn, every time we (collectively) try to have an original thought or try a child-friendly a la carte approach to learning instead of the rote and ritual stacked to the ceiling.

And the whole time that we’re drilling and testing and spanking and bribing, and voting for school uniforms and bond issues like a good solid citizen should, don’t we feel kinda trapped by our own accumulated dysfunction?

6 01 2010
Unity Emerging: All Political Divides Boil Down to One Common Purpose! « Cocking A Snook!

[…] “In other words, we’re stuck with the current system, because it isn’t really in any[one's] interest to try to change it.” […]

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