(Guest Post by Jason Bedrick)
I’ve long thought that the big-box stores and, particularly, shopping malls might one day be replaced by “education malls.”
Imagine this: parents send their children via self-driving cars to the local education mall where there is a central administration that keeps track of a child’s location and well-being, along with her forms/transcripts, but otherwise her family chooses from among dozens of different providers located throughout the mall. At the food court, several different vendors offer their fares just as they do at the malls today, though most of the parking lot has been converted into athletic facilities.
For math, she chooses a Saxon Math workshop. For literature, it’s Great Books. She’s learning Mandarin Chinese via an online course at the language lab. For PE, she’s practicing kung fu. For art, she attends a rotating painting and pottery course this semester. She’s being tutored in the harp. Each course is offered by a different vendor and her parents pay for these various services with their ESA.
Might sound crazy, but with widespread use of ESAs (and declining shopping malls due to Amazon, Jet, Overstock, etc.), I think this just might be the future of education.
The self-driving cars are still a long way away (speaking of which, it looks very likely that I will soon owe Robert Pondiscio a beer), but schools are already starting to move into vacant shopping malls, as ABC reports:
BURLINGTON, Vt. — Students who once shopped at a downtown mall in Burlington, Vermont, are now attending high school in the former Macy’s department store, with gleaming white tile floors and escalators whisking them to and from classes.
The Downtown Burlington High School opened March 4, about six months after school administrators closed the existing school, just under 2 miles away, because toxic industrial chemicals known as PCBs were found in the building and soil during renovations. That left students stuck at home learning remotely for much of the school year during the coronavirus pandemic.
As school officials looked for space where students could attend school in-person, they eventually eyed the empty department store, which closed in 2018. They talked with architects and learned it was a possibility, said Superintendent Tom Flanagan. […]
The building underwent a $3.5 million retrofit supported by the state that added partial walls for classrooms while keeping some Macy’s remnants, like the sparkly white tile floors, bright red carpeting, and Calvin Klein and Michael Kors signs and a large-scale Levi’s jeans photo on a classroom wall. The library is housed in the former Macy’s china department, with books displayed on under-lit shelves, while the gym is in a former store’s warehouse and is still unfinished.
It’s not quite the “education mall” of my dreams, but with more and more states adopting K-12 education savings accounts, perhaps they’re not so far away.