Bricks, clicks and civics

In a post on “hybrid schools” that combine “bricks and clicks,” Larry Cuban warns that efficiency isn’t the only goal: Schools are not “information factories.”

In some ways, the new hybrid schools are fulfilling progressive educators’ dream of student-centered learning, he writes. Digital lessons are “hand-crafted to fit students for part of or most of the day,” while teachers coach students on what they’ve learned or teach a few traditional lessons. There are fewer teachers and therefore lower costs.

But techno-enthusiasts’ view of public schools is too narrow, Cuban argues.

They equate access to information with becoming educated – more of one leads to more of the other.  These very smart people ignore other crucial and purposes public schools have served historically in a democracy. . . What can be as important as students acquiring information? Try socializing the young, developing engaged citizens, moral development, and, yes, even custodial care of the young.

Schools have never been solely information factories; they have been and are social, political, and moral institutions whose job is to help children and youth acquire multiple literacies, enter the labor market well prepared, vote, serve on juries, contribute to their communities, think for themselves, and  live full and worthwhile lives.

That criticism may apply to click-only education. While home-schooled children often participate in youth soccer, Little League, the church choir, art classes and other group activities, some parents may let their children grow up as loners.

However, it’s not likely that bricks-and-clicks students will go to the same building to learn but never socialize. Do students need to be grouped into classes to learn to be good citizens? Are they more likely to be independent thinkers if they’re taught in a group? What do traditional schools do to develop morals that a brick-and-click schools couldn’t or wouldn’t do?

San Jose’s Rocketship schools, charters with a hybrid model, are rated #5 and #15 in the state among schools with 70 percent or more low-income students. Students, predominantly from Mexican immigrant families, significantly exceed state performance goals. These children will be just as able to “live full and worthwhile lives” as traditionally educated children with weaker reading, writing and math skills.

About Joanne


  1. Homeschooling Granny says:

    Joanne, While I agree with your observations there is one I would like to comment on: “While home-schooled children often participate in youth soccer, Little League, the church choir, art classes and other group activities, some parents may let their children grow up as loners.”

    As someone involved in homeschooling, perhaps I am too sensitive but I perceive this as misrepresenting homeschooling. Some children grow up as loners no matter where they are schooled. Some people do not do well in crowds. Some may be loners because of their experiences and for some it may be innate.

    School socialization has its risks too. Children spend a great deal of time with other children, people who are as immature as they. We would not let one three year old baby sit another but 10 years later we have 13 year olds socializing each other. The way they solve life’s problems are not always the best any many would benefit from some mature input. (The challenges of school socialization are dealt with at length in “Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers” by Gordon Neufeld, PhD, and Gabor Mate, MD.

    We seem to have gotten beyond the notion that parents cannot educate their children but are stuck on the idea that they cannot socialize them. When people do meet homeschoolers, they are generally impressed by their behavior. Homeschooled youngsters do well when they go to college (although it appears that they may have to give up some of their individualism such as conforming to group standards in dress).

    A realistic concept of why and how homeschooling works, might give us some insight into what is needed in schools too. Brian D Ray has done research on the demographics of homeschoolers. They look very much like the families whose children do well in school. Maybe its not so much the schools, or the teachers (who are taking so much blame of late) but the parents who make the difference.

  2. If schools are necessary for our democracy, then how in the heck did we get along in the three-quarters of a century before universal schooling in the U.S.? Most of our Founding Fathers were homeschooled and they sure didn’t seem to have a problem being engaged citizens.


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