Thursday, May 7, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: One Industry's Contrarian Furure?

The aftermath of the national pandemic shutdowns is likely
problematic for most U.S. industries, but one very large and
important sector might ultimately benefit from the crisis.

American public education, from pre-school to post graduate
levels has been in a qualitative decline for decades, even as its
costs have soared. Whether local or state government-run,
a concurrence of controversies, lack of discipline, political
correctness, degeneration of curricula, swollen class size.
excess of unnecessary management, teacher union demands,
and too much non-educational distractions have brought
secondary school systems to very low levels in many locales,
especially in large inner-city areas.

As a response, educational alternatives have risen, including
private, charter, home-schooling, religious --- and most
recently, online. As these alternatives have grown, financial
pressure on public education has increased.

Current shutdown of  in-person schooling will end probably
with the onset of the next school year, but for now all students
are receiving their education online or by home-schooling,
alternatives most parents and pupils did not consider for
themselves previously. Having experienced them, a
certain number are likely to continue with online and
home-schooling education. That number now is unknown,
but if that number is only 2-4%, it could have major impact on
government-run public education.

Home-schooling is one of those few institutions embraced by
both conservatives and progressives, albeit for different
reasons, including reduced curriculum offerings, overlarge
class size, arbitrary revisionism of U.S. and world history,
banning of school prayer, imposed political correctness, and
increased drug use and violence. When shutdowns end, most
parents will return to their work away from home, but some
employers will reduce their overheads by continuing that some
work at home --- thus reducing the day care function of having
children in schools. For those parents who don’t want to
home-school, there is online schooling as an option.

Perhaps even more devastating could be the consequences for
colleges and universities.  The cost  of a higher education have
soared in recent decades. An Ivy League bill was $2500 a year in
1960; today it is about $70,000 per year (and rising). Other
private colleges and universities are the same or not far behind.
State colleges and universities are lower, but often still very

In addition to demands for refunds for the shortened school
year caused by shutdowns, colleges and universities now
face resistance from parents to paying so much to send their
sons and daughters away to school. As with secondary schools,
most colleges were already facing a crisis before the shutdowns,
especially in the undergraduate liberal arts programs where
political correctness, historical revisionism and free speech
issues were increasingly overshadowing quality education.

Intercollegiate sports have spawned huge campus stadiums,
and produce key financial funding from attendance and
alumnae giving.   The immediate future of large stadium and
indoor arena crowds is now uncertain.  The sports themselves
will return, but the industry behind them could be much

Online higher education had already become a factor before
the shutdowns, but it could now have a major boost as
traditional colleges and universities struggle with new
enrollments, financing and other campus issues.

In the short term, the higher education industry faces major
post-shutdown consequences and challenges. But for those
American parents and students concerned about runaway
higher education costs, the failing quality of
undergraduate liberal arts programs, and the general
decline of campus environments, the current emergency
could prove to be  a catalyst for better higher learning
education  ahead.

Similarly, the public secondary school industry, facing
credible competition from private and technological
alternatives, could begin to halt its recent downward drift
by responding to post-shutdown challenges and the needs
of its true clients --- parents and pupils.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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