Here Is What I Said When Someone Asked Me What I Think About the US School System

What do I think about the US Education System? I could answer this in so many ways, but here is the one that comes to mind first.

The US School System is actually an education ecosystem, a marketplace of traditional community-based public schools, charter schools, independent schools, as well as independent parochial or faith-based schools. Regulations and expectations vary from one state to another, but you will find a greater variety of school practices, models, approaches, and philosophies within the US School System than in any other school system in the world. In some major cities in the United States, it is sometimes possible to find a Muslim school, Jewish School, Catholic School, Lutheran school, Baptist school, community public school, Montessori school, Waldorf school, democratic school, STEM academy, English-German bilingual school, Spanish-English Bilingual School, classical school, project-based learning school, art immersion school, and a home school co-op. We can include hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of other such approaches and philosophies in the US School System.

This diversity of approaches brings about both benefits and limitations, but it reflects what I contend is a strength of the system. When we step back and look at the system as a whole, we can find many problems (some serious) along some incredibly inspiring and impactful schools, but we also see a system that reflects the diversity that many consider one of our strengths as a nation.

With that said, there is not currently equity with regard to this marketplace of options, and there is a power struggle cloaked as a philosophical difference that persists about the US Education System. Some are against public charter schools or independent schools that get tax dollars through school choice programs for example. They argue that this siphons money from the traditional community-based public schools. Others argue that we are wise to promote access to a greater variety of quality schooling options for all students. Some communities in the US do this more than others. Some use the metaphor of the “grand experiment” to the United States in general, a place where people explore and experiment with ways to do things differently. The education system is a prime example of this American spirit at work.

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About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is an author, professor of education, Vice Provost of Curriculum and Academic Innovation, podcast host, and blogger. Some of his books include Missional Moonshots: Insights and Inspiration for Educational Innovation, What Really Matters: Ten Critical Issues in Contemporary Education, The Pedagogy of Faith (editor), Adventures in Self-Directed Learning, and Digitized: Spiritual Implications of Technology. He is passionate about futures in education; educational innovation; and social entrepreneurship.