Is Now the Time to Rethink Education?

Experts discuss virtual education and why now is the time to rethink the American education system.


Air Date: October 30, 2020

Moderator: Marc Sternberg, K-12 Education Program Director, Walton Family Foundation

Featured Guests: Todd Rose, Co-Founder and President, Populace

The coronavirus pandemic has forced a huge strain on our current education system. Students from kindergarten to college are adapting to learning via virtual education, while teachers are trying to find creative ways to teach that are as impactful as in-person classroom learning. The overall results have been frustrating, and it’s forced us to address the overall flaws in the current education system.

To start having a conversation on why now is the time to rethink education, Marc Sternberg, K-12 Education Program Director at Walton Family Foundation, had a conversation with Todd Rose, co-founder and president of Populace, as part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Talent Forward event. Here are four takeaways from their discussion.

One-Size-Fits-All Systems Are Failing

For decades, the education system has operated as a one-size-fits-all institution. But as we've accumulated more data and understood the different needs of different people, we now know this approach to education is imperfect. There are various ways students intake information, and very often, teaching them all in the same way does an overall disservice. Some need more attention, while those who accelerate could take on more challenging material.

“Human beings are different, and those differences really matter,” Rose said. “When you end up creating a standardized system, where every kid's learning the same thing, at the same time, in the same way, quite often it ends up serving nobody particularly well.

Parents Do Not Want the Status Quo for Their Children

The pandemic has allowed parents to become reflective and practical, and when they look at the current education system, they want something different. Research has shown that parents and communities still prioritize education, just not the way it’s currently presented.

During the pandemic, a majority of parents have voiced their dissatisfaction with the system.

“When parents are given the choice … nearly two-thirds of parents across this country say, ’Do something different,’” Rose stated. “Even when they don't even know what they're going to do with their kid … It's something about the very purpose of the system that's flawed here.”

Technology Will Enhance, Not Replace the Human Experience in Education

Many fear that the rapid development of many technologies, combined with the pandemic forcing online remote learning, will replace teachers and the personalized education system. With such advancements in artificial intelligence, people see that as the future of education systems.

Rose argues that technology won’t replace teachers and systems, so much as it will be used to improve the education systems.

“We have to remember that learning is not about technology,” Rose said. “Technology replaces nothing that is essential about learning. Learning is about individual progress and about human relationships. The extent that the technology amplifies and augments that will be adopted …To the extent that it tries to replace teachers, replace the human interaction, do things to and for kids —it won't.”

The Future of Education Will Be Pluralistic

We're seeing that a singular standardized system fails its students and satisfies no one. At the beginning of the Frederick Taylor system, there was more diversity in education. Rose makes the point that in Iowa, they taught animal husbandry, whereas in the Bronx, they did not. As time went on, diversity in education was no longer seen as an asset but rather as a liability. That has led us to today's standardized system.

Rose believes that, going forward, there will be pluralistic systems that take the idea of human and community difference seriously.

“What you're going to see is … that the unit of change is the community,” Rose shared. “It matters that communities get the schools that they want and deserve … We can learn a lot about what it means to facilitate equity in a transforming system.”