Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Teach Your Children Well

By Kathy Young, Director of Operations.

Not long before I graduated from high school, an unexpected bestselling book was published titled An Incomplete Education. While I'm long overdue for a new edition (as are the authors, since the most recent update was in 2006), I still appreciate the book's ability to present concise explorations of a wide variety of topics without reading like straight encyclopedic reference set. Which, by the way, is soon to be history, at least in print form. If you are looking for an opportunity to start collecting out of print books, or if if your kids want to know what you used for school reports before Wikipedia, $1,395 will buy you a 2010, 32-volume encyclopedia set.

While the days of Encyclopedia Britannica in our school and family libraries may be gone, new developments that impact how we learn are always popping up. One of the most interesting in recent years is Khan Academy, a non-profit organization formed in 2006 with the goal of "changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere." If you haven't seen one of the 3,000 online video lessons available from the Khan Academy, a recent 60 Minutes story provides a quick intro. There's an interesting debate about how to integrate this form of teaching into the traditional classroom (if at all), and while I'm not ready for teachers to entirely cede instruction to Khan or others in the field, I'm thrilled that there are more choices for children and adults who have different learning styles, or can more easily incorporate "education on demand" into busy schedules.

The implications for community, workforce, and economic development practitioners are exciting, given the ever present need to offer affordable (or free!) continuing education and adult education and retraining opportunities. GED prep courses and financial literacy jump to mind, the latter already available for free via Khan Academy, and the former maybe a not too distant offering if enough requests are received (hint, hint).

As we often say at Market Street, you really can't overstate the importance of choices. This is true in education, and there are many community examples to cite that have seen the value of expanding the universe of learning opportunities. Whether its Decatur, Alabama where leaders are bringing the award-winning Leader in Me program to elementary schools, or one of the many communities that have pushed hard for career academies that offer dual enrollment, the quality of the educational environment can be tied to the choices that are available for students no matter where they are in life.