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  • Robert Farago

It's Official: The Public School System is Dead

The post-AI results are in

The American public education system was designed by and for the Industrial Revolution. The operational philosophy was simple enough: teach everyone the same thing at the same time. An education system based on the factory model to create factory workers.

Of course it wasn’t sold that way. Nor do today’s educators see it that way. The current justification for public schools: socio-economic mobility. Anyone who graduates public high school has a good chance to get a job. To become a productive member of society. Ignorance banished on the public dime in the name of equality. Equity? That too.

Standardized tests – all the way from kindergarten to twelfth grade – supposedly ensure educational quality. Never mind the enormous disparity in outcomes between high schools. Or the teachers unions’ stranglehold on job security, allowing bad teachers to teach badly. Throw money at failing schools, or at least their administration, and Bob’s your uncle.

It got the point where the educational establishment claims everyone has a right to a college education. Well it would, wouldn’t it? The result of this misguided, self-serving declaration was predictable enough: “dumbing down” the system to enable the educational industrial complex’s wet dream. And government-finance to pay for economically useless degrees.

Despite taxing all Americans to fund public schools and an entirely unnecessary Department of Education ($174.97b per year), despite enticing millions of financially-challenged students into a “just sign here” mountain of debt, not everyone bought in. Higher-performing private schools never went away.

One educational system that turned its back on educational industrialization: Montessori. Founded by Dr. Maria Montessori, approximately four thousand schools wearing her name practice self-directed learning. Children choose their own activities and work at their own pace. According to its supporters, Montessori schools promote independence, responsibility and self-motivation.

By the same token, home schooling doesn’t adhere to a set curriculum. Often motivated by political and/or religious concerns, home schooling parents reject government control of their children’s education. And win.

The National Home Education Research Institute claims home educated students score 15 to 30 percentile points higher than public school students on standardized tests.

The obvious challenge with self-directed education: it doesn’t scale. If 50 students are all learning 50 different things at different times, teachers need to be both highly educated and specially trained. It also requires a greater teacher-to-student ratio.

Enter artificial intelligence. Chat GPT has been available to students for an entire school year. The results are in… surveyed 3,017 high school and college students (ages 16-24) and 3,234 parents of younger students to see AI’s effect on their education. The conclusions spell the death knell for traditional public school education.

Nearly all have replaced some of their tutoring sessions with ChatGPT

95% say their grades have improved since studying with ChatGPT

9 in 10 prefer studying with ChatGPT over studying with a tutor

Most common subjects students have replaced tutors for are math and science

In the same way that AI is an existential threat to coders, tutors are now on notice.

Thirty-nine percent of high school and college students surveyed say they have fully replaced tutoring sessions with ChatGPT, while 30% of parents of students surveyed say they have done the same for their children.

The survey focuses exclusively on supplemental education. Yes, but, “teacher” is another word for “tutor.” AI is a triple-whammy to the existing public education industrial complex.

AI is a cheaper, more effective and a more convenient way to impart knowledge and basic intellectual skills. As you’d expect from a nascent technology, or any technology, there is a downside.

“Students tend to use Chat GPT too often,” former tutor Meteusz Kostrz asserts.

This reduces their ability to think creatively and quickly come up with solutions, because they are used to being able to simply input their query and get an answer. That can be very easily seen when writing essays, which some students cannot do anymore without help from AI.

There’s an app for that! Or there will be soon enough.

Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITSs) are computer systems that aim to provide personalized instruction and feedback to users, often through the use of AI technology and without a human teacher. ITSs have been receiving a lot of attention due to their ability to provide a one-on-one curriculum. The use of deep learning algorithms allows the systems to suggest certain studying strategies for individuals. ITSs are becoming more effective with current research, including work coming out of Carnegie Mellon University this year. Researchers were able to demonstrate new methods for building ITSs that can teach a variety of different subjects, including algebra, grammar, equation solving, fraction addition, and chemistry.

Needless to say, the existing educational infrastructure will not go quietly into that long good night. There’s far too much money at stake. Power too.

Educators who see mass childhood indoctrination as the key to creating a constituency for a “just society” – a perspective popular amongst teachers unions – will not willing surrender education to large language models.

That said, I bet dollars to donuts that these institutionalized teachers will work diligently with the left-leaning tech giants to ensure that AI instructors impart their political perspective. They will insist that teachers stand guard over children using AI, physically, and get paid handsomely for doing so.

As always, though, you can’t stop the signal. Ultimately, better educated students will get better jobs, forcing taxpayer-funded school graduates to compete with graduates outside the system. It’s a battle public school educators have already lost. They just don’t know it yet.

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