Scott Hambrick interviews podcaster, author, former test prep educator, and education contrarian Brett Veinoitte about the rapidly changing role of school and, particularly, secondary school. As the recent scandal involving celebrities paying bribes to obtain university admissions for their children has revealed, college has become so ingrained as a symbol of status and opportunity that an entire industry has sprung up to facilitate the admission of subpar students. Meanwhile, the costs of college steadily rise, in both dollars and time.
Brett offers a history of schooling, tracing the modern public school system we are familiar with back to the Prussian educational reforms in the late 18th and 19th centuries. The Prussian system groomed common-born children for military service by establishing free, taxpayer-supported schools with a basic curriculum of technical skills needed in a modernizing world (such as reading and writing). The curriculum attempted to impose a strong sense of national identity and a strict ethos of duty, sobriety and discipline. These traits linger in our contemporary school system — the bells dividing class times into regular schedules, the teachers reprimanding students to remain silent until called upon. Even the hierarchy of the school resembles something militaristic, with approximately platoon-sized classrooms, led by teachers, grouped under assistant principals, themselves guided by a principal and her staff of advisors.
None of these features was implemented to develop critical thinkers possessed of the skills to challenge authorities, status quo, or paradigms. Yet, for a time the system worked, and produced a workforce more suitable to the factories, assembly lines, and schedules of the new industrial world. Now that this industrial world is undergoing rapid change once again, graduates find themselves without the skills to find meaningful work. This disconnect has extended to secondary education as well, and with the cost of college education rising to astronomical levels, the value of a degree has plummeted.
Nevertheless, the myth that college is a golden ticket to opportunity and prosperity persists, with very real costs to the young people that acquire debt and delay families in search of the golden ticket. Brett and Scott hope to change that through their businesses.
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