A friend once told me what he felt to be an iron rule: “status makes you stupid.”
His point: once people get famous, the quality of their work goes down. I’ve often found this to be true.
Well, I’ll put forth a corollary to this rule: “status makes us all stupid.”
My point: the desire to seek status over actual learning hampers innovation in the field of education. This makes us all a little stupider by denying us access to potential innovative practices.
Why does this occur?
Innovation comes from both the bottom (disruptive innovation beginning with low cost non-users) and the top (early adopters paying a lot of money for first wave technology and programs).
I might be biased, but it seems that much of recent public education innovations has come from the disruptive side, with education reformers attempting to meet the needs of students stuck in failing urban school systems.
Less innovation has come from the wealthy end of the consumer spectrum. Elite private schools just don’t seem to be changing that much (at least from what I can tell from afar, if you know otherwise, let me know).
Why is this?
Well, perhaps these schools are already delivering the near optimal education program.
I’m skeptical that this is true.
More likely: the wealthy are paying for status (and perhaps peer effects) more so than they are paying for educational programming.
Schools respond when people pay for status: we get beautiful buildings, wonderful extracurriculars, and a lot of social events.
Of course, these things don’t spread to all schools because they involve costly goods rather than innovations in instruction.
So instead of the wealthy subsidizing the early adoption of innovation, the reverse seems more likely true: it’s the practices of urban charter schools (Teach Like A Champion, Leveraged Leadership, blended learning, etc.) that will end up spreading to the suburbs.
We would all be better off if innovation was occurring at both ends of the educational spectrum.
So hear’s my plea to the wealthy of the world: quit (mostly) seeking status and subsidize some education innovation.
We’ll all end up smarter if you do.