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Competition in Education

During election seasons, it is always exhilarating to hear about solutions to our damaged education system. Every modern president has called themselves the "education president" and has really provided no alternative and promising solution. At the Republican National Convention this past week, Donald Trump (and his son Donald Trump Jr.) discussed the importance of options in public education.

I have long been a supporter of options in public education - Especially charter schools on the path to success such as Pride Prep in Spokane Washington. That being said, I do understand that providing an option does not resolve the fundamental flaws of public education, not the least of which is segregation.

One of my favorite examples of success in a public option in education is Logan Laplante. He hack schooled his way to education in the truest pursuit of happiness.

Trump has an interesting take on public education. He states that "options" in education are what nations around the world are doing and succeeding with. In the United States, our public education system is more segregated than it has been since the desegregation of public schools. Options alone are a really difficult solution to achieve without further dividing our student base.

Instead, we can look to nations such as Finland who ensure that every single school, no matter how poor the neighborhood it is built in, receives the exact same resources. The Finnish school system is a primary example of prolonged success in education without relying on competition.

The argument for options in education is that it creates competition. I have always seen value in competition and I do see it as a fundamental part of humanity. However, with a child's reduced autonomy competition does not function appropriately. Kids can't make decisions regarding their education which means we leave those decisions up to their parents. That is the equivalent of providing "options" for prisoners to promote competition but leaving the placement decision up to the sentencing judge.

Another success in the Finnish education does promote competition in a healthy way. In Finland (and many other European nations) teachers are admired in their communities in much the same way that engineers or doctors are admired in the United States. In these nations, it is incredibly difficult to become a teacher. In contrast, in the United States teaching programs at Universities often have low expectations in hopes of producing as many teachers as possible. Finland has integrated equality and competition into its education system and continues to be one of the leading education nations in the world.

Competition after school (and even late in school) is healthy for development of the individual and society, however it should not be a competition for knowledge or resources but instead a competition for success with those resources. Students in the United States are currently in competition for opportunities - a contradicting theme to the "American Dream". Relying on resource or opportunity competition will just further divide the have and the have-nots (a phrase I never want to think of in terms of first and second grade children).

Nations around the world are acknowledging flaws in their education systems and are making sweeping adjustments to their design and function. On the contrary, American education systems are still more or less designed for the industrial revolution. During this election we must maintain sight of a future that promotes equality in educational opportunity. This is the only true and authentic way to develop the competition that fuels the great American think tank.


What If?

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