Jack Spirko has started an interesting series of podcasts dealing with what he sees as eight megatrends we're likely to encounter over the next few years. The second and most recent of these podcasts deals with primary and secondary education. I was intrigued by his perspective.
Today I want to discuss with you how changes in primary and secondary education will drastically impact our economy in the coming years. For those not familiar with these terms, primary and secondary education are commonly referred to as K-12 education in the U.S. Right now the media is only paying attention to post secondary education as far as economic impacts go, and that only tacitly.
I wanted to begin with K-12 education because while there is a lot of talk about kids going back to school. Will it happen? Is it safe, etc.? No one is really discussing the economic impact this is going to have nor does anyone seem to understand the sheer size of the coming exodus from the public school system. Remember a common theme I have asked you to think of in this series is the “test drive”. To my knowledge no one other than myself is using this analogy yet, as to CoVid impacts. Simply put, if a company say Ford wants to increase car sales all marketing is directed at getting people to test drive Ford cars. Get enough test drives you get more sales.
Well that is what has happened with about 55 million students in the primary and secondary education sectors in the US. Many parents or like my wife and I, grandparents, were thrust into essentially home schooling in March-April of 2020. The first week or two was a nightmare for many. This is not surprising as we all had no plan, no time to prepare and zero experience with the concept. We also had to jump in near the end of the school year, so we lacked a clear starting point.
Social media erupted with frazzled parents and virtue signaling posts about how underpaid teachers were. I understood the sentiment, my wife and I struggled with my grandson who was pretty willfully defiant about getting his work done. He’d do it but take all day long to do so. Then I had a talk with him (he’s 9 by the way) that went like this.
Buddy you are blowing a huge opportunity here. I looked at the amount of actual work you need to do. I am pretty sure you can do it in 2-2.5 hours a day at the most. And you could even do two days worth in one day. That would give you almost 3 more full days to be totally free. To run around on our property. To play. To learn what you want vs. what they make you learn. To work with me on projects. You could be free but I guess you don’t want to be.I know some readers will be triggered by the fact that I would put that much on a poor little 9 year old. Get over it, we don’t do teacup kids at the Spirko house. Two days later in the garage he said to my wife in a small voice, “grandma I just want to be free”. The next day he tore into his work and by then we had gotten organized with a schedule and set up with the computer for him. We had a work area set up and had conditioned his little sister (age 4) to leave her brother alone during “school time”.
I watched a 9 year old achieve the ability to be educated and be truly free in a single week. (Stop here, do not let the impact of that last sentence pass over you without impact. Read it one more time before you continue and think about it please.) He learned plenty from the “school work” but the real lesson was the lesson of being an entrepreneur. Schools teach hourly thinking, living by a clock. Be on time, punch in, get a bell or whistle for breaks and lunch, stay till the end of the day. Every kid who has ever been in school sat and watched the clock in classes for the last 5 minutes doing literally NOTHING because you don’t leave till the bell rings. My grandson like many children just got a lesson in thinking like an entrepreneur, do a good job, as swiftly as possible and be judged more on production than attendance.
Now I am a unique guy with a unique perspective so I am sure other parents and grandparents used other tactics to adapt but what ever they did for most it worked. Two to three weeks into this test drive all the frantic posts on social media vanished. Parents have now had a test drive of what their children look like learning outside the confines of a government school. And they like it, a lot. How much? Well, back in May long before fears we would not reopen were really considered the Washington Policy Center conducted a survey. The conclusion was that…
“More parents are considering pulling their children out of the public schools. The poll shows 40 percent of parents are more likely to pursue homeschooling or online school after COVID lockdowns end.“Just two weeks ago my estimate was that we would have about 2.5 – 5 million new home schoolers in 2020 even when schools open back up. I based it on the test drive conversion being 5-10%. I am now upping that estimate to as high as 15 million over the next two years. I do a daily podcast with 250,000 listeners, that is a good sample size. The sheer number of emails I have received recently and comments on social media stating that “my kids are never going back” has been massive. I have been forecasting the demise of the current education system as a mega trend for a while but the acceleration caused by CoVid is shocking even to me. Even in my personal relationships, I have recently had parents I know, whom I never thought would home school tell me that they are switching.
There's more at the link. Highly recommended reading.
That's a whole lot of food for thought, isn't it? If Mr. Spirko is right, and a large proportion of parents do switch to home-schooling, our current investment in public schools is likely to come under very heavy pressure. Will we have too many schools, that are too large, for the suddenly reduced need? How about teachers - will they face massive layoffs? What about the education system that's geared to produce large numbers of new teachers every year? Will there be jobs for them? How about the taxes levied to support public school systems? How can they be justified if the system is suddenly far too big for the actual need?
I can see the education establishment fighting against home schooling tooth and nail, even more than they have in the past, because suddenly their livelihoods, their future careers, their "place in the sun", are all under threat. I expect liberal/progressive states to try to restrict home schooling options, to force kids back into "mainstream education" - but that's going to be difficult, now that so many parents have seen how essentially useless and self-serving mainstream education has become.
There's another factor. Tens of millions of Americans are out of work, and the odds are they won't be going back to work anytime soon. That means parents have more time available to supervise their kids' home schooling. They won't have to juggle work and home schedules - their kids' education can now be a part of their new "work". What's more, the convenience, and the opportunity to spend more time with their kids and not have to pay babysitters' charges, may lead couples to revert to an older lifestyle, where one is the breadwinner and the other is the "home manager", to coin a phrase. It's by no means impossible, provided they're willing to live more simply and cheaply, and not indulge themselves in every new fad, fashion and foible that comes along.
Mr. Spirko raises many useful and important questions. I'm looking forward to the rest of his podcast series as he completes them.