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How online education can save conservatism

How online education can save conservatism

Education, business, and government leaders are gathering this week in Washington, DC to discuss the future of American education at the Thought Leader Summit (held from Nov. 10–13), an event held as a part of the National Education Initiative. Among the many topics that will be discussed is the advancement of online education, a technological gift that could save conservatism in America.

It comes as no surprise to liberty-focused Americans that U.S. education is rife with liberalism. Teachers colleges and teachers unions have worked tirelessly to ensure that school systems across the country are stocked with educators that reject traditional free-market and liberty-focused curricula.

Instead of a fair treatment of history, civics, and economics, liberals utilize “learning” materials, such as one history textbook used in South Carolina that suggests former President Ronald Reagan was sexist, that fabricate the truth to fit their own leftwing agenda.

Teachers and professors don’t even bother hiding their bias. One survey released by UCLA in 2012 shows that more than 62 percent of college professors identify as being either “far left” or “liberal,” while less than 12 percent claim to be “far right” or “conservative.” With results like these, how can conservative parents ever feel comfortable sending their kids off to local public schools or to costly colleges?

The obvious answer is for parents to send children to private schools that embrace personal responsibility and liberty or to start homeschooling. In both situations, however, time, funding, and the teaching ability of the parent may stand in the way as nearly insurmountable obstacles. This is where the advancement of online education could save the day.

In “Rewards: How to use rewards to help children learn – and why teachers don’t use them well,” a new book by Heartland Institute Chairman Herbert J. Walberg and Heartland President Joseph Bast, the authors present the incredible technological advancements that have occurred over the past decade in online education and how these advancements can be used to improve education.

According to Walberg and Bast, “Digital learning stands on its own or adds great blended value because it can adapt to the capacity and speed of individual learners, provide minute-by-minute feedback on learning progress, and provide rewards suitable for individual learners. It is similar to an imaginary inexhaustible, highly skilled tutor.”

Walberg and Bast say that highly successful private and charter schools have taken advantage of this new technology, and the results have been quite astounding. The much-talked-about Rocketship schools, for instance, have produced unmatched test results and student achievement by combining traditional models of instruction alongside digital, personalized instruction.

There’s simply no reason why conservatives cannot take advantage of these models to produce their own liberty-focused curricula that can be used in private schools, homeschools, and in colleges across the nation. No longer is it necessary for parents to become education experts to provide their children with a quality education that embraces liberty.

Some conservatives have already started taking advantage of digital learning to advance the cause of liberty. Perhaps the most famous case is the free, not-for-credit massive online open-enrollment program at Hillsdale College, a liberal arts college based in Michigan who envisions itself as “a trustee of modern man’s intellectual and spiritual inheritance from the Judeo-Christian faith and Greco-Roman culture, a heritage finding its clearest expression in the American experiment of self-government under law.”

Other programs, like Liberty University’s Online Academy, are designed specifically for private schools and homeschools and are geared toward providing a more foundational education compared to the college courses at Hillsdale.

Although many of the education experts and public servants attending the Thought Leader Summit this week are interested in improving American education, few of them embrace the classical liberalism espoused by the Founding Fathers. It’s up to conservatives, Tea Party groups, private schools that espouse liberty, and homeschools to build educational systems that promote the values that built America. Technology has made the once-reasonable excuses of cost, location, and time no longer applicable.

With some hard work and innovative thinking, conservatives now have the opportunity to combat the liberal tide that has swept across the country’s education system over the past 50 years.

“Rewards: How to use rewards to help children learn – and why teachers don’t use them well” by Herbert J. Walberg and Heartland President Joseph Bast is available on Amazon.com and at The Heartland Institute’s online store.

Justin Haskins ([email protected]) is an author, blogger, and an editor of publications at The Heartland Institute, a leading free-market think tank based out of Chicago, IL. You can follow him @TheNewRevere or visit his personal site online at http://traskhaskins.com/