You Can’t Fix Education
This is not a simple problem and we have to stop seeing it that way
Often, when I talk to rich people about the success of Crash Course, they get really excited really fast. They often see it as a path into something they want very badly, which is to address the extraordinarily broken system of education in America. A system that hasn’t seen significant innovation in a hundred and fifty years. A system that is leaving students behind because of nothing more than bureaucracy and stagnation. A system that treats students like products in a factory. A system that they, if only they had the power, could fix with their brilliant vision and ambition.
The problem is, education in America is sub-optimal because it is an impossible thing to optimize. It necessarily has to be local because different schools face different problems. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions. You can’t innovate your way into the kind of traditional cost-savings the internet brings because, ultimately, you need TONS of high skilled employees…teachers. And teachers are expensive despite actually being cheaper than they should be.
Personalized education? OK, maybe. But don’t tell me you want your kids brought up in a classroom without teachers. What do you think is the more important output of the education system, students who can solve math problems or students who work together effectively and speak intelligently? No one is going to disrupt teachers away. Teaching is probably the most difficult of all current jobs for an AI to manage. If you don’t believe that, then you have never truly taught.
I once asked a teacher of mine why trees never evolved the ability to walk. Now, her reply was maybe not the most scientifically accurate one…but it is a very good one: “Why would a tree need to walk?” she asked in return.
Education in America has innovated over the last 150 years. Yes, teachers are doing really interesting stuff right now. But there’s a reason why it hasn’t changed as much as your phone, and that’s because classrooms don’t need to grow legs and start jogging around and doing tricks.
Classrooms are not sexy, but they work. The glassy look rich people get in their eyes when I tell them that Crash Course is used in tens of thousands of schools is actually marvelous arrogance. It’s that look of a person who thinks that, if only they were in charge, they could fix this mess. Because, of course, the people who are currently in charge don’t know anything about the problem. They’re too entrenched, too old-school, they can’t think in terms of disruption.
It’s those people who tell me what I need to be doing with Crash Course; how we could build it into a billion dollar company that finally fixes these problems. As if the start-up graveyard isn’t full of companies that tried to be just that; companies that almost invariably confused their arrogance for altruism.
So we thank them for their kind words and then we keep doing what we’re good at…making great content about difficult subjects that help students and teachers. And to avoid the bureaucracy and mess that comes along with selling these things, we give it away for free with thanks to PBS for helping fund it and, of course, to all of our over 7,000 Patreon Patrons who collectively give us $30,000 a month for us to produce this content. And they don’t do it because they have to, but because they want to.
Thank you so much to all of those people, if you would like to be one of them, we promise to keep “revolutionizing” education by, y’know, empowering teachers and students to make their own decisions about how to teach and learn. https://www.patreon.com/crashcourse