Dear Bill: Why the Distinction Between College and K-12?

At the Techonomy conference last week, Bill Gates declared that going to school would soon be obsolete, and that ”five years from now, on the web, for free, you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world.” What’s interesting is that Bill was quick to note that he was talking only of higher education. K-12 education should still be tied to physical schools, he is reported to have added.

Certainly there’s a custodial aspect to the education of young children, but there’s no reason that electronic learning options cannot be combined with custodial supervision – and much more affordably than traditional schooling. Homeschooling already consists of hybrids of parent lessons, lessons taught by paid tutors and guest lecturers, web classes, etc. This flexible format could be generalized to serve a much broader range of students. So why not encourage the exploration of these new possibilities at the k-12 level, just as at the higher education level?