“Traditional Education Reigns Supreme: The Benefits of Old School Learning”

“There’s nothing quite like traditional education.” It’s a humorous tribute offered by two elderly men in the movie The Incredibles from 2004 when the main characters come out of retirement to save the day. (A less family-friendly version of this sentiment can be found in the movie RocknRolla from 2008). However, I’m afraid that this kind of tribute has gone out of style. The rejection of traditional norms is evident in today’s era of post-liberalism, performative populism, cancel culture, and 14-year-old TikTok stars.

This blog is, in a way, a response to all of that. Now, even though it may seem strange to launch a blog titled “Old School” on a platform called Education Next, it actually isn’t. After all, my colleagues at EdNext and I have been committed to “steering a steady course, presenting the facts as best they can be determined, giving voice (without fear or favor) to worthy research, sound ideas, and responsible arguments” for twenty-five years. In 2024, doing so requires a heavy dose of old-school resilience.

“Old School” is based on the belief that staying on the right track necessitates reclaiming our devotion to some traditional (yet timeless) values: perspective, experience, humility, and a willingness to question the trends of the moment. In other words, it requires more tried-and-true wisdom and less jargon. It doesn’t get much more old school than that.

The blog will cover a wide range of topics. We’ll likely discuss K-12 education, pre-K, and college; research findings and policy proposals; student loans and social-emotional learning; teachers and educational technology; funding and diversity, equity, and inclusion; innovative improvement strategies and intense cultural conflicts.

However, the defining characteristic of the blog won’t be any specific topic, but rather its sensibility. The ethos will be “old school” in a very straightforward manner.

First and foremost, I often find that many of the newest, most innovative education reforms aren’t actually all that new. Those who claim to be trailblazers are often just following a well-established path. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that there are lessons to be learned and that the challenges may be familiar, while the solutions may be less straightforward than enthusiastic innovators think. Readers familiar with my books such as The Same Thing Over and Over or The Great School Rethink know that I believe there is great value in looking back. It’s safe to say that this will be a recurring theme.

The “old school” sensibility will unapologetically embrace values that were widely accepted not long ago. For example, I deeply appreciate rigor, merit, hard work, knowledge, classroom discipline, personal responsibility, respectful discourse, religious freedom, patriotism, limited government, two-parent households, due process, equal protection, and balanced budgets. While there’s room for complexity and nuance, I generally believe that these are good things. That’s where I’m coming from.

At the same time, I want to make it clear that this blog will not be a political endeavor. In fact, I’m so old school that I won’t even attempt to keep up with the fast-paced, social media-driven news cycle or the latest partisan bickering. There are plenty of other platforms that offer hot takes on the latest clickbait. That’s not my style. Instead, I aim to provide context, perspective, and insight, ideally with a touch of flair.

You know, when I started blogging fifteen years ago, the blogosphere felt less self-righteous. There was more room for humor. As a result, my writing felt more liberated, fresh, entertaining, and personal than it has in recent years. Well, it’s time to bring back that spirit. This will involve resurrecting some writing devices that were prematurely retired. So, longtime readers can expect to encounter some familiar favorites, including my time machine, wise Uber driver, stolen FBI intercepts, and more.

Lastly, there is an abundance of excellent writing on Substack today. Of course, the best content is usually behind a subscription paywall, which means authors go all out to make it worthwhile. This results in lengthy, scholarly, link-filled essays. For better or worse, “Old School” will offer something different. The pieces will be shorter, quirkier, and lighter on the links. The model will be more akin to an ornery newspaper columnist than a long-winded article in The Atlantic. (For those who remember grabbing the morning paper, think Mike Royko, William Raspberry, Jimmy Breslin, or Herb Caen.)

If this doesn’t sound appealing to you, that’s alright.

But if it does, I believe we’re going to have a great time together.

Frederick Hess is the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute and an executive editor of Education Next.

The post There’s No School Like the Old School appeared first on Education Next.

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