COMMENTARY | According to CNN , Jeb Bush is a staunch proponent of online K-12 schooling, seeing new technology as a way to help maximize the potential of every student. In his op-ed, the former Republican governor of Florida praises online education and its merits, especially the choices it provides parents to select the best courses for their children. He ends his prose with the line “every parent deserves to choose the education that best fits their child’s needs.” I have a problem with that line, and in Bush’s more general overuse of praise for online education.
I agree that online schooling can be invaluable for many students who, for a variety of reasons, cannot easily handle life at a traditional brick-and-mortar school. I do not, however, want to see online education intrude on America’s public schools. Not only would a massive expansion of online K-12 education harm our nation’s entire public school industry, it would be a nightmare to regulate and oversee. Online education is best reserved for those who truly need it, not those whose parents want to “give it a whirl.”
Aside from wanting job security for us old-fashioned, brick-and-mortar schoolteachers, I worry that online education robs many students of invaluable social development. While learning via the Internet may be efficient, what affect would multiple years of little human interaction have on an online academy graduate? Can someone whose education has been confined to a computer screen truly handle the cut-and-thrust of a brick-and-mortar job? If people think teenagers today have stunted social skills because of their obsession with smartphones, what would happen if all those teens never even had to leave the house? A massive expansion in online education could lead to a massive atrophy in collective social and interpersonal skills.
And, despite its ability to tailor lessons to the individual, can online education teach improvisation and critical thinking as well as brick-and-mortar education? If everything is online and ironed out perfectly with no glitches or wrinkles, how will students learn how to handle the unexpected? Right now, for instance, I have to switch up my lesson plans because a virus has robbed me of my voice. The students are dealing with improvised assignments and tasks they did not expect a few days ago — and they are better for it.
Online education, perhaps better dubbed “copy-and-paste education,” should be limited to those who truly need it.