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70 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to problems facing the public school system
In The K-12 Implosion, Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee and best known as the blogosphere's Instapundit, begins by explaining the problem behind the public school system: We're spending more and more money for an out-of-date system that is producing worse and worse results.

"So at the K-12 level, we've got an educational system...
Published 17 months ago by Matthew P. Cochrane

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars meh
The work is basically a little political screed. It's far enough away from "center" that it would draw bad reviews from everyone anywhere on the Left, but putting that aside, it's kind of short on information and logic and kind of short on words. It doesn't even supply somebody on the Right with telling, effective talking points that would count for something...
Published 3 months ago by Marco Polo


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70 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to problems facing the public school system, January 25, 2013
By 
Matthew P. Cochrane (Fort Lauderdale, FL) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The K-12 Implosion (Encounter Broadside) (Kindle Edition)
In The K-12 Implosion, Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee and best known as the blogosphere's Instapundit, begins by explaining the problem behind the public school system: We're spending more and more money for an out-of-date system that is producing worse and worse results.

"So at the K-12 level, we've got an educational system that in many fundamental ways hasn't changed in 100 years - except, of course, by becoming much less rigorous - but that nonetheless has become vastly more expensive without producing significantly better results."

Reynolds then explains that public schools were originally created for what are now woefully dated purposes:

"When our public education system was created in the 19th century, its goal, quite explicitly, was to produce obedient and orderly factory workers to fill the new jobs being created by the Industrial Revolution. Those jobs are mostly gone now, and the needs of the 21st century are not the needs of the 19th."

Later, Reynolds writes that churning out workers for 1925-style labor "won't work when the kids entering school today will be on the job market in 2025."

Of course, Reynolds offers a few statistics on how school spending has increased in various districts around the country while reading and math levels continue to drop.

Why is this so? Reynolds offers a few reasons. First, while students and spending have increased, most of the new money is being funneled to "paper pushing", not teaching. Quoting from The School Staffing Surge study, Reynolds states that the K-12 student population increased 96% between 1950 and 2009. During that same time, the ranks of administrators and other non-teaching school personnel grew by 702%, "more than 7 times the increase in students"!

This increase of price coupled with declining performance could spell disaster for the public educational system if it does not change, Reynolds believes. An implosion, if one were to take place, would start when a sizeable number of parents chose to withdraw their children from public schools. This has already taken place; between 2005 to 2010 the number of students fell approximately 5%. This alone can set in motion the implosion Reynolds foresees. He explains the vicous cyle public schools must break in order to stop the trend:

"First, the students who are leaving are probably better than average because their parents care so much about their educations. That means that when they leave, the overall quality of the remaining students, and thus the schools, will drop.

"Second, funding is often based on the number of pupils in the schools, so when these students leave, the schools have less money. Since it's hard to get rid of teachers, they'll probably cut "plus" programs like music, art, etc. - but losing those will make the schools less appealing to students who are thinking of leaving, probably accelerating the trend."

As this happens and public schools begin to be seen less as a "universal institution", Reynolds believes general support for the funding of public schools will also begin to wane. This will make tax rate reductions likely and tax increases almost impossible.

If the public education system is not reformed, Reynolds states (and I agree), that it might be gradually replaced by a number of diverse alternatives:

"...instead of replacing our monolithic public education system with something equally monolithic, we may wind up replacing our current system with a whole lot of different things, a variety of approaches tailored to children's (and parents') needs, wants and pocketbooks."

Federalism at work! Smaller is better! Reynolds outlines a number of these alternatives including online school, the Khan Academy approach (online lectures from world-class teachers are watched at home while students report to class for one-on-one help), and homeschool. This is on top of the more obvious choices like private and charter schools. These different methods introduce flexibility for parents and children, reduce costs and generally raise the child's quality of education.

Reynolds believes there are two ways in which things can move forward:

"On the one hand, these new and innovative approaches can take place within the context of publicly funded education. On the other, they can be embraced by parents who are fleeing what they regard as a failing public system."

If public schools embrace these changes, Reynolds writes, parents will be happy and see the system as providing real bang for their buck. This will keep enrollment up and ensure public funding continues uninterrupted. If public schools do not adopt these changes, parents will continue to withdraw their children and resent the taxes they pay for an obsolete system they do not use thus setting in motion a K-12 implosion.

The only minor complaint I have with the Kindle edition is that the graphs cannot be enlarged or viewed right side up.

The content, however, is superb. Given the space constraints, Reynolds produces an excellent outline of the problems facing public schools and what the best solution or, rather, solutions are going forward. The price is easily affordable and the whole thing only takes about an hour or so to read. You cannot go wrong by purchasing this book if you wish to better understand the challenges we face of educating our children today.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars it's coming, January 28, 2013
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Short and readable -- 30 to 60 minutes of reading to understand what is, at core, a coming revolution in education.

Think about it -- we customize everything from our wardrobe to our car to our phone to our landscape to our coffee, but we are supposed to accept a standardized education for our children? Please.

At the rate things are going, public school will soon become just another poverty program. (What shall we call it? Educaid? Educare? Edu-carceration?) The students with the chance/means to do so are escaping the public schools as quickly as they can. School districts are creating public charters and magnet schools in a foot-dragging manner, amidst great teacher-union outcry and moaning, to try to retain some of the more motivated students. This is probably too little, too late. Teachers attack even simple innovations, like Teach for America. How will they cope with a total overhaul of the mission?

How long can the blue model of public education continue?
And what happens to all those "safe" government jobs that have been held by minorities in the cities for the past 50-60 years?
And how much civil unrest will attend the collapse of public schooling?

Those questions aren't even broached in this broadside, but it's time to have that conversation.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Followup to the Higher Education Bubble, March 3, 2013
By 
Richard M. Rollo (Montebello, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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Professor Reynolds touches on all the causes I can think of for the disconnect between what we spend on public education and what we are getting in student performance. We see students graduating from high school who can't do simple arithmetic without a calculator or can't read books beyond the 6th grade. The state testing in California show many schools in the 40th percentile in reading and math and yet the parents give high ratings to those schools. Most pressure groups organize around a cause du jour that wastes time and money, such as banning sody pop machines. The Los Angeles Unified School district hired gourmet chefs to create "healthier meals" and the children threw the food in the trash.

Reynolds argues that problems like these are the result of the end stage of the industrial and bureaucratic age public school system. Instead of downsizing the bureaucracies like private businesses, the public school administrative staffs have grown astronomically in the last sixty years. Most of what these people do is create paper shuffling for the teachers and eat up classroom time with "pep rallies and DARE." This is a 1950's-1960's mindset. When Reynolds' daughter started in the 9th Grade, she estimated that 2 and 1/2 hours out of the school day involved learning. She set up her own program using online classes and finished high school by age 16. I think this is an incredibly important point. Much of the time spent in school at the behest of the administrators is boring and a complete waste of time for most students.

Although there is no solution for the problem of the schools, according to Reynolds, there are solutions. All children are not the same. They need to have alternatives available to help them develop their individual skills and interests. That cannot be achieved in a government bureaucracy which tends to its own needs first. More importantly, these solutions will come despite the efforts of the education establishment and their politicians to stop them.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great as far as it goes!, February 7, 2013
By 
Cathy Duffy (Westminster, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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The K-12 Implosion reiterates a message that others have been saying for more than a decade: we spend more money on education than ever and get worse results. Glenn Reynolds does a great job of outlining the problem and possible solutions in this quick-reading essay.
Part of the problem can be blamed on the fact that schools are stuck in an industrial model that doesn't even reflect the needs of today's economy. More important in my mind is that it that it largely ignores the efficiencies that could be accomplished with modern technology and dispersed learning.
Author Glenn Reynolds builds his case for the support of vouchers, but he misses the fact that as long as government controls the agenda of schools they will always be crippled to some extent. Can't we go further and get government out of education all together?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview of the problems of our K - 12 schools, March 31, 2013
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Encounter Broadside # 31 is a short pamphlet on the public education system in the US for grades K through 12. It is an excellent short overview of the existing system, and how it has evolved over the years to meet the needs of America in the past. Prof Reynolds does not really address the parochial system, nor the independent schools, other than touch on different school types.

He makes the point that the education system has been changed in the past to meet the needs of the nation and its people. He points out that children used to be educated by the family in the things that they needed to be a farmer, or a cobbler or other trade of the day. Only the elites received a formal education.

When the industrial revolution arrived with its factories, the system needed to change, so that society could produce productive workers on a mass scale so that all could benefit from the ongoing industrial revolution. He does an good job of summarizing how the US developed the public schools a century ago to educate the young people to be able to easily fit into factory jobs. However, in the more recent decades, the K - 12 public school system has changed and has lost focus on the intent of educating the children to meet the needs of the country for an educated workforce.

The K - 12 public school system has to a large extent been captured by the teachers, administrators and administrative employees, and their unions, and really does not well serve its customers, the students. The people (taxpayers) for many decades have been pouring increasing resources, i.e. money, into K -12 education, without any improvement in performance of the schools. The number of teachers has increased significantly, and the the number of administrators and administrative staff has skyrocketed.

The system needs to change to become more efficient and effective and reduce the costs. On line tools can help much more than they do at present.

I would love to see the existing K -12 school districts in the country all change to become more effective and cheaper. However, in reality change is hard and really resisted as shown by Wisconsin etc. So, at best some of the fortunate school districts will be transformed, and produce better students at reduced cost. They will probably be in areas that lead to improvements in their towns and countries and states.

I am retired, but wish that I had had the wonderful educational opportunities offered today outside the brick and mortar K - 12 system. I believe that I would have gotten a much better education on line with todays tools. I would that everyone could get over their old hang ups with the brick and mortar K - 12 schools, and go back to concentrating on how we can educate the children, particularly the best and the brightest, and reduce the cost, and the time spent in school.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fundamental Explanation of Problems in K-12 Public Education, July 10, 2013
By 
Luke H (Michigan, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The K-12 Implosion (Encounter Broadside) (Kindle Edition)
The book is a great read as an introduction into the failing public education system (K-12) in the United States, as it focuses on fundamental failure points. I gave it four stars because it is a little short and the author does not take a moral stance on public education. He just states that it is failing and gives an amoral analysis of why (this may be good for some readers). He doesn't seem to think public education at the root is bad, just the current application in the United States is...

Below is a very brief summary:

The book starts off by summarizing "The Problem". It is explained as increasing flow of money into education without any buyer resistance, despite the poor quality product (learning). Here, there are many facts on spending and measurable outcome of the system. Because of this, an implosion is inevitable - "Steady increases in per-pupil spending without any commensurate increase in learning can't go on forever. So they won't."

Next is an explanation of what our current system is and what it was meant to be - a 19th century era system based on a factory line type model, with the goal of producing obedient and orderly factory workers. The author makes some interesting points regarding the unsurprising results the system has produced:
- "Industrial model of labor, complete with powerful unions that make many changes more difficult"
- "a strong current of nostalgia. Parents tend to like the idea of their children's education recapitulating their own."
- The failure to teach necessary modern day skills.

The author goes on to explain signs of a start to the inevitable "Implosion". First, school districts are seeing devastating drops in enrollment because of parents seeking education elsewhere (due in part to the rise of charter schools). Other increasingly popular education programs are mentioned like online schools and the Khan Academy.

Finally, the author comments on the potential future for Public Education, and the necessary steps it must take to avoid the implosion.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Love all of Glenn's Work, no exception here, February 15, 2013
I'm a big fan of instapundit and I've always enjoyed Glenn Reynolds' writing regardless of context. The K-12 Implosion is a very good broadside, but it's not as strong as his previous short work, Higher Education Bubble. The reason for this is that Reynolds is a law school professor and he doesn't have as strong of a handle on the public schools as he does on higher education. I myself see no evidence myself that there will be an implosion but there definitely will be a serious crisis over teacher pensions. If there isn't the states themselves will implode. My own state of Illinois is an excellent example. Glenn talks about Khan Academy as evidence of a trend of increasing online education. This is a hopeful development but I do not think online education will appeal to most parents and students. He cites his daughter and the fact that the online education she had gave her time to work at a job for 12 hours a week. I am very happy for her, but I sincerely doubt that companies will hire teenagers due to how high the minimum wage is (and how much higher some current politicians would like it to become).
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good on ya! Glenn, January 28, 2013
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This review is from: The K-12 Implosion (Encounter Broadside) (Kindle Edition)
Very well thought out and as usual well written. Should be required reading for everyone with kids. School administrators should take note.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking But Incomplete, February 12, 2013
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This review is from: The K-12 Implosion (Encounter Broadside) (Kindle Edition)
This is a fairly well written and fascinating essay worth reading to spark discussion on the current issues facing public education. However, it does little in the way of introducing knowledge that hasn't been gone over before.

In short: Worth a read if you want to start thinking outside the normal patterns about how to change the status quo but digging deeper is a must...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well-stated, if simple assessment of the K-12 education crisis, March 6, 2014
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This review is from: The K-12 Implosion (Encounter Broadside) (Kindle Edition)
After Mr. Reynolds' slightly more engaging The Higher Education Bubble, the K-12 Implosion extends a similar analysis to the public K-12 arena. This is a very short book, essentially being an extended essay.
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The K-12 Implosion (Encounter Broadside)
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