Is Education Entering the ‘Age of Alternatives’?

Has anyone else noticed that some of the new schools being built, including much-celebrated “schools of tomorrow” resemble Google headquarters, as well as each other?

Without ignoring that much of what differentiates one school from another takes place below the surface, the desire to make schools look like high-tech office spaces might be just the latest demonstration that education has historically followed and reflected—rather than led—technological, political and economic change.

For example, “Industrial Era” schools of the early 20th century were designed to reflect what constituted modernity during that period, such as fixed schedules and efficient factory, assembly-line production. They were also built on Progressive Era principles that embraced standardization and centralization, making such early-modern schools a major break from the highly decentralized, non-standard, one-room schoolhouses they replaced.

One can see school reform, and actual schools, continue to reflect society’s dominant cultural tropes regarding modernity. For instance, as mainframe computers, with their centralization of computing power accessed through “dumb” terminals, entered enterprises (and movies) in the 1950s.

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