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Bottom of the stack
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The “stack” metaphor is something we use often at Higher Ground Education. (Montessorium is the think tank of Higher Ground; Higher Ground provides a distinct flavor of Montessori education.) Higher Ground is unusual in education startups in being “full stack”. We offer our own accredited Montessori teacher training, through the Prepared Montessorian. We have programs that go from birth through high school. We source and finance real estate, we develop support systems and technology, we do pretty much everything.
Total vertical integration is a major advantage when you’re a total radical. The status quo is a dangerous attractor in today’s education system. You need to be able to do everything yourself.
Montessorium represents the bottom of that stack. It’s the philosophy of education that powers the programming, defines the mission, and flows through to every end-user of every offering.
That’s it, that’s my “substack” riff.
Marc Andresseen agrees with the need for a full stack revamp of education. He was recently on the wonderful Knowledge Project Podcast, and if you skip to about 54 minutes, you can hear him talk for several minutes about intractable problems in education. His view on school reform:
“There is no fix. There's only one thing to do: build a new system. The new system has to get built from scratch. It has to get built the hard way.”
The system is a bureaucracy, one with entrenched political machinations and financial interests, that just cannot be reformed. I agree. I don’t agree, however, with his read of the historical situation. He offers a common version of the “factory model” narrative to explain how the education system got so bad. But, as we’ve noted, that’s not really explanatory—or at best, it explains a small portion of the variance. Still, very worth listening to his take.
As a follow-up to last week’s newsletter on the desirability of universal preschool, check out the NPR coverage of Dale Farran’s reflections on his surprising pessimistic findings. The status quo in education is not good, and bringing the status quo to preschool at scale has all the risks of the current broken system of education.
What’s particularly good about this piece is that it notes that there is often a prejudice that low-SES children need preschool programs with more structure: more discipline, more academics, more drill and kill. And part of what this research shows is that the need for more agential programming is universal, not some unique need or privilege of children of means.
Another article to file under “There Just Is No Progress in Education that Doesn’t Include Going Deep into the Pedagogical Stack”.
In other news: we’re two weeks into our history of education course. Perhaps because the history of education is so fundamental—or perhaps due to the Baader-Meinhof effect—we’re seeing history everywhere. (It’s not too late to sign up. You’ll be joining a cohort of 150 incredible educators and entrepreneurs, and you’ll have immediate access to recordings of the two classes you missed.)
There’s the history in the Andresseen podcast, above. And then there’s this lovely piece:
Education Must Make History Again, by Zachary Stein. It is mostly a lengthy, wonderful summary of Comenius, a radical educational thinker that we cover at length in our history course and who presaged many Enlightenment-driven proposals for education reform. If you’ve never heard of Comenius, and you’re interested in education, dive in.
I’m less favorable to the metahistory in this post than I am the history. In general, pedagogy has not been a driver in history. It has the promise to be that, but by far the most common outcome is that education systematizes existing childrearing practices and adds literacy. This is a running theme in my history course, which, again, you should take. (Always be closing. :) )
One more point of interest:
Are Semesters or Quarters Better?, a short post from Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution. This is a persistent and somewhat silly debate, as the range of options should be vastly wider than the ones considered, as Cowen notes: “In fact I think the quarter system doesn’t go far enough. I think we should have many more one- and two-week classes, or five-week classes, as well.”
More generally, the education of the future will have learning structures that are vastly more time-adaptive than the ones we use now. Slotting education into fixed intervals is fine for certain elements of learning, but an entire education system that revolves around such slots is not conducive to mastery.
Matt Bateman, Ph.D.