Posted by: crudbasher | December 10, 2010

If Restaurants Were Like the Education System

Sometimes when I come in to work I have to do a lot of research to find a good topic to blog on.  Sometimes however, inspiration hits.  This is one of those posts. 🙂

The Government Restaurant (cc)

Imagine an alternate reality.  In this world there is only one kind of restaurant.  Each looks different from the outside but inside they are pretty much identical.  They are run by the government as a service because everyone needs to eat.  In fact attendance is mandatory until you become an adult.  The government provides buses that come around early in the morning and pick everyone up and take them to their restaurant.  Now keep in mind the patrons don’t actually get to choose which restaurant to go to.

Upon arriving at the restaurant, the patrons are divided up into groups based on their age.  Each age grouping gets a set menu.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the food because nobody asked you anyway.  The menu was set by experts in Washington DC.  Of course every few years the menu is changed a bit but it is always the same for everyone in the country.

The service in these restaurant is not consistent.  The wait staff mostly do care about what they do but there is only so much they can add to the meal because of the limited menu.  They don’t work for tips.  In fact if one is giving bad service there really isn’t anything the patrons can do.  All the staff are in a powerful union which protects them.

There are some patrons who don’t really want to eat out all the time.  It’s expensive and the food is always the same.  Sometimes they want to stay at home and cook what they want.  That’s ok, but if they own a home, they still have to pay for eating out anyway each day.  These days there are also many more choices to get food delivered, but even then they still have to pay for eating out too.

There are some people who say that each person should be allowed to eat what they want, when they want, but the experts in Washington know better.  It must be the same for everyone or else it isn’t fair.  If everyone is fed the same thing, they will all enjoy it the same, weigh the same and have the same level of health right?   There are others who say that maybe we can have different kinds of restaurants so people can have a choice, but that is just crazy talk.

And thus, our restaurant system is perfectly fair, and perfectly dreary.

Government School (cc)

In our reality, keep in mind, our public education system is being run by the same people who run the Post Office, the DMV, the IRS and lots of other cheery, creative places.

What do you think, does this analogy work?

Update: I do consider this example to be extreme, however I am looking to stimulate discussion by looking at the problem from a different angle.


  1. Well, it’s a little skewed as an analogy, certainly in British Columbia. We have common curriculum but teachers are not required to deliver it in the same way, use the same content, or have students learn it in lock step. Teachers can choose content, methods, timing, etc. as long as they teacher to the learning outcomes. Yes, there are still bells, schedules, provincial exams, etc. There are still examples that may fit your analogy. But, in my observation, there’s a lot of diversity. I suspect the US system is similar depending on the state or county. It’s always a bit dangerous to paint a “system” with a single brush stroke…

    We’re having a very interesting discussion on personalized and 21st century learning in BC and in our respective districts and schools. We will make this our own and I believe, make it work for kids. Exciting times.

    • Ok to clarify I am talking mostly about the US system. I think there is a trend towards more standardization rather than less, that’s my point. I agree the analogy is a bit strained in places. 🙂 I was trying to provoke some thought. (and it seems like I did heh heh)

      I have been following the work being done in BC with great interest! It seems like you are moving in the right direction certainly. 🙂

      Thanks much for commenting Brian!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rich Kiker, Dan Pontefract, Andrew Arnold, Kwan Tuck Soon, Mary Williams and others. Mary Williams said: RT @rkiker: Fun read RT @tucksoon: If Restaurants Were Like the Education System #edchat […]

  3. As far as education (in general) in the US is done, right on. Great analogy…makes me sad.

    • Thanks Kelly! It just kind of hit me! 🙂

  4. I think this analogy is good one but would be more effective if you were do drill down a layer or two. Possibly write it from the perspective of a patron.

    I get it, I see the analogy and its spot on… but what about the “experience…”

    [its 7:00 am, June and Bill ready themselves, begrudgingly, for the bus that will take them to breakfast. What is it today? drones June.” Bill looks at the fridge, I think its BurgerPats and tator tots…” June sighs. They get on the bus and…]

    Just a thought…. I really like your analogy…

    • That’s a really good idea Chris! I’ll rewrite it as more of a story and submit it somewhere. Thanks for commenting!!

  5. I have been reading a lot about the US’s approach to education lately. Loved your analogy and thought it was bang on. I am very thankful to be teaching in BC. Our ‘restaurants’ in BC allowed to be very diverse in how they serve the food and the patrons. Many of us are eying the assessment part of the menu these days. Who knows; maybe our restaurants will be open 24 hours soon! I look forward to your future posts.

    • Thanks very much for your comments Carlan! I like how this analogy seems absurd when talking about restaurants but when talking about education we somehow think it’s ok.

      As I mentioned in an earlier comment I have seen a bit of what is going on in BC schools and I am impressed. Keep up the good work! Things are changing!

  6. IF you look at the Swedish system it works a bit different. We got, what we call, “free schools” witch are funded by a a sum, from teh goverment, that follows the student. So the Swedish student can, if they live in a bigger town (the number of students are not enough in small towns) choose between public schools or private schools that are free of charge.

    But still, the laws, the system, the menu for the restaurant if you like, are all the same. But you can move around chairs, choose cutlery or sticks to eat with and so on.

    But you have a bit of flexibility put in in to the system, actually bye the social democrats in the 1990s.

    • Pontus that is a great system. If the money follows the student then it builds accountability into the system. Right now the ones most affected by school, namely the parent and students have no say about what happens. Thanks much for sharing your views! Very interesting!

  7. school is the most beautiful places for us to write, read
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  8. […] If Restaurants Were Like the Education System […]

  9. […] further reading about restaurants and education check out this post from a few years ago. If Restaurants Were Like the Education System  Share this:TwitterEmailFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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