Glen Carrie

Why Going Micro in Education Might be Bigger Than You Think

After reading a recent article on an exciting new trend in education called Micro Schools, I began to really think of the micro movement as not only a solution to many perils in education, but to many of the social and political challenges we face as well.

“How can we create an education system that works for everyone?” “How can we create a nation that works for everyone?” “How can we create a world that works for everyone?”

The answer to all of these questions is: Don’t create anything for everyone.

Create something really small and really meaningful for a few people. What about everyone else, you ask? Let others create more small things that work for a few more people.

Marketing gurus and advertisers will tell you that mass marketing is out and niche marketing is where it’s at. Sure, there are those who are still mass hungry, but we tend to condemn them, wish they were more ethical, wish they were more personal and wish they were more local. Locally-grown, locally sourced and local-owned have become trendy as social responsibility is something we are not only willing to pay more for, but something we’ll put pressure on others to attain and then maintain.

Why should educational offerings be any different?

Let’s stop and question why we say we want education that works for everyone. The answer is probably that we think this is the most equitable way to offer education. We think educational offerings on a mass, standardized scale, although not perfect, will at least be equitable. Perhaps you can say that mass education is equal, but it certainly isn’t equitable. If you need to be reminded of the difference, check this out. The point is, offering everyone the same thing…the same mediocre, sort of works for some and totally not for others, standardized thing, really isn’t equitable at all.

What would happen if we multiplied the number of schools in a city by 20 and lowered each school’s population to about 50 kids? Like the locally-owned bakery appeals to the needs and wishes of its local customers, so too could a micro school appeal to and meet the needs of its students. And by the way, get rid of zoning — just because a group of students live in the same neighborhood, doesn’t mean they should or want to go to school together.

Imagine a city where 100 micro schools, each with its own unique theme and character, appeals to students and families because of shared interests and values. Each micro school would be more cost-efficient to run, more student-directed, with greater parent interest and involvement. In such a small learning environment, voices would more easily be heard and concerns more readily addressed. Because of their size, these schools would not demand huge, expensive facilities, rather, micro schools could share facilities with other micro schools or even other organizations.

Perhaps the way to make a big change in the practice and outcome of education is not to fight to change policy, appeal to all people, cross party lines and push millions of dollars through legislation. Perhaps the real way to make big change is to build up the courage to go in the absolute opposite direction and go smaller than we’ve ever imagined before.

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