School is not for learning. It is for education, for teaching, which is to make you unable to learn. School is just an institution to enslave people’s minds. School uses tests to screw up certain kinds of people, who are not good at passing tests, make them stay as manual labor, and screw up some other kinds of people, who are good at passing tests, and make them stay as mental labor. We, essentially free human being, are screwed up this way, if you understand what “essentially free human being” means. Many of my childhood friends are very smart people. But they couldn’t survive school education. I definitely think they should be able to contribute more to society.
Many people think they learned something in school. But that amount of time might be spent a lot more efficiently in alternative ways of learning. When I was in college, only 10% of knowledge was learned in school. The other 90% knowledge were learned outside of school, through extensive reading and social practice. It is insane to me that school locks people in an artificial environment for several years to just study one major. People’s learning needs are extensive and intertwined. Real life is the best learning environment. (Read my blog essays: https://freestone.wordpress.com/2005/07/26/learning-essay%e2%80%94business-liberal-arts-and-tech/ , https://freestone.wordpress.com/2005/07/26/learning-essay-learning-and-no-learning/ ). For that many years, did you really learn well in your major? On the contrary, I feel it is generally true that whichever major you are in, that is the major you are going to get screwed up with by school.
To get to understand the nature of school better, you can read more about unschooling, a movement that has been going on for decades. Especially, John Taylor Gatto did an excellent job in telling you what school is all about (http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/index.htm ).
For people who are afraid of commercialization of learning, I feel it really depends on what kind of commercialization it is and whether it is based on free market. First of all, with that amount of tax money, what kind of education has the government controlled education provides us? Secondly, through free market, we might draw more people to engage in the production of learning resources, providing a lot more learning product. (If providing everything free will make better learning resource, I will definitely for making it free. If not, I am for free market.) It might be something you have never imagined. Also, let all kinds of ideas, religious and non-religious, conservative or liberal compete in the free market.
Milton Friedman’s school voucher (http://www.cato.org/pubs/briefs/bp-023.html ) is a marvelous idea, although its adoption has gone through a tough time. However, with the new web2 based learning platform, we are going to force school to compete.
I have to say that right now I am not totally standing on the side of commercializing education. I feel there are more details that need to be figured out.
This new platform brought by web2 is going to make the alternative learning not a scattered individual effort anymore. But the dominate form of learning adopted by the people on a massive scale.
Let me give you a list of what advantages the new learning platform will offer in term of learning:
1. knowledge more accessible, so you can mostly learn by yourself. (This is already true for learning software)
2. easy navigating of knowledge to find knowledge that can fill your gaps
3. easy way to gain a whole picture of the subject and thus easier to set up a learning strategy by yourself
4. online note-making to collect, refine, organize and share your knowledge
5. totally free learning plan and schedule set up by yourself
6. knowledge coming from all the people, not just some book authors
Above makes it much easier to teach yourself. Below we can see this platform makes you easier to learn by doing and learning from experts
7. easy access to peers, so you can meet people sharing similar interests,
8. easy to find people to do things together, so learn by doing
9. open source, so you find project you are passionate about, and learn by doing it
10. easier access to experts and their material and ideas
Above is just a short list of how this new platform is better than school in term of learning. In the past four years, through my research in elearning, I came up with two core software design to tackle the learning issue. One is an online notebook, through which you can learn how to learn by learning how to use this online notebook to organize your experiences and ideas, which is quite simple to learn. The other software is a new document rendering system, which is to render learning material by patterns and let learners view it like a map with zoom in and zoom out functions.
The thought to pull all these things together is to build a platform to help people find tutors online and companies to publish their training programs online.
I’ve met many people who are good at something and would love to teach other people about it. So with this learning platform, they can put some learning material online. Through their blogs, they can let people know how good they really are. Especially they can submit articles on a certain subject, and the articles are going to be voted by readers. Platform will provide functions to classify tutors and material into different categories and levels to help people to find tutors they really need. Tutors can post their classes online and people can sign up for them. We will plug the notebook into the platform so people can organize their knowledge, maybe refine and convert some of their notes into courseware, which might be distributed online. The document-rendering system can also be plugged into the platform to allow the maximum flexibility of viewing the material. Learning groups, discussion groups can also be formed. Learning consultants and workshop will also help people address learning issues.
Corporations usually have training programs for new employees. Corporations can publish their training programs online and people can sign up for them. It is like internship. Corporation can get some nice projects done and discover potential great hires. So school based evaluation system will be replaced by such experience-based evaluation system. After teaching themselves to a certain degree, learners can find projects to do in corporations. An open source model might be used here.
I believe billons of individuals and millions of corporations combined together on a platform of rich learning features will be able to beat schools, and force schools to enter free market competition.
I have got many questions I got from people interested in this. However, before you ask me questions, I want to remind you that the whole world will be changed under this new kind of learning, so you shouldn’t base your questions on the old world. For example, people asked how this new learning platform will compete with programs that prepare people for SAT. The answer is that this new learning platform should never prepare you for any artificial tests. This new learning platform is to help you learn real things in real life. Our goal is to get rid of schools. Why should we help you prepare for some school entrance exams?
Together let’s free learning! Certainly for a new world to appear before us we have to go through the change in learning first. School based education is the root of most of our current social problems. With web2, I think we are ready to get rid of school now.
Notes: this article is mainly indented to address adults. I think at least people 18 years older should be counted as adults. For children education, please read Sudbury Value School model, I think it provides a perfect solution. Sudbury Valley is essentially not a school, but unschooling in a supportive community. It provides a safe public place for kids to come to do activities together with a supportive learning environment..