Posted by: crudbasher | April 13, 2012

Searching for a New Model For Learning – Part 4

Check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3!

The purpose of these musings has been to see what form a future system of education would take by looking at current systems. So far, I have looked at the existing mass-schooling model, restaurants,  and airlines. While restaurants and airlines are similar in a lot of ways to schools they aren’t a good model for the future. Let’s step back for a moment a discuss why.

(cc) bingbing

There are really only two ways to motivate someone to do something; passion and fear. People will do things when inspired by passion, or to avoid fear. Schools are based on fear as their prime motivator. It starts when you are forced by the power of the state to go to school. You are exposed to what the state says you have to learn, and the state evaluates you with large standardized tests. Hanging over each student is the fear of knowing if you don’t do well in school, your whole future is in jeopardy. It’s all about conform, behave, listen and do what you are told, or else (like being on an airplane). Is it a big surprise that students don’t learn much?

This is all about choice. Who decides what each child will learn? If it’s anyone other than the child, they will not be learning by passion and they will learn just enough to satisfy their masters. Children learn a great deal more when it’s something they actually are interested and passionate about. So what would a passion based learning model look like?

(cc) liber

A passion based model should demonstrate freedom of choice, creativity, passion and should be something that everyone can do. I think the analog we are looking for is food.

I love food. I love to cook it, I love to eat it. I love to try out new recipes and experiment.  There are so many different combinations and styles of food. Thai food, Indian food, American, British, Spicy, Mild, Grilled, BBQ, the list is endless. The best part is that nobody forces you to eat a certain way (unless you are in school). So let’s break down this system.

  1. Everyone has their own personal tastes in food.
  2. Everyone has a choice as to what they want to eat for each meal.
  3. You can make your own food, or buy it prepackaged, or grow your own, or go to a restaurant to have someone else make it for you.
  4. There are many websites where you can get recipes for free.
  5. Many people come up with recipes on their own and share it with everyone.
  6. You do this your whole life and your tastes change over time.

Can we apply this idea to education? Yes I think we can. Let’s make a new education system with these characteristics.

  1. Everyone can choose what they want to learn, and when they want to learn it.
  2. Learning materials can range from quick 5 minute how-to videos, to full degree programs.
  3. People will share their own lessons with each other.
  4. While you will be able to adopt full learning plans (formerly called degree tracks) many people will construct their own tracks to match their skills and interests.
  5. This learning will happen over your entire life.

The mass schooling system will largely go away. In its place will be a network of hands on learning centers. There are many skills such as skilled trades that you really can’t learn online right now. In Germany, only 12% of their high school graduates go to college but the rest have a system of ~380 different trade skill routes to go into. Their unemployment rate is about 5% and they consistently have one of the best economies in the world.

(cc) fazen

So to conclude, what model in society do I think will replace the factory school model? A supermarket. Our education system of the future will be a learning wonderland where people can come to learn about what they are passionate about. Online learning will be a huge part of it and most of it will be free. Many people will learn trade skills and most people will change careers many times during their lives as they follow what they are passionate about. That’s the key. Help them when they have questions, but other than that let them drive the learning process. Let them take as long as they want, let them experiment, wander off the path and make mistakes. They will be better people for having taken the journey.

Put your faith in people, not in the state. Let children find out what they are passionate about, hook them up with a nearly infinite variety of resources to learn with and then get out of their way.

Thank you for reading! I am interested in hearing feedback on my ideas in the comments! Let’s eat!

My wife's amazing Peanut Butter pie.


  1. Crudbasher,
    I’ve really enjoyed this 4 part series.

    I think your idea of passion based learning is a great step in the right direction. I have actually seen (and felt) some passion based learning – but I don’t remember much of it before graduate school! I’d really like to see it move down into K-12.

    I think your speculation about multiple careers currently has 2 roadblocks – golden handcuffs and lack of health insurance. Golden handcuffs are a result of progress in a chosen career (along with the associated salary) that is hard to give up when considering switching to a new career field (where you may have to start on the bottom rung of the ladder). Lack of affordable health insurance can hinder those who might choose to sart their own company or go to work with a small company. What do you think? Are there silver linings in the stormfront that might help address these 2 issues.

    Have a great day,

    • Hey Kent,

      Thanks for your kind words!!

      College is one of the first places a student has a choice in learning so it makes sense they would have more passion there. However, I think a lot of damage gets done in K-12 which college has to spend energy and time fixing.

      I have given some thought to the two roadblocks you pointed out. I think in the future, companies will be a lot more lean and have staff which are a lot more transient in nature. It used to be industries were very set so you could plan for 10 years down the road but can any industry know that now? Things change and the idea of a fixed workforce is going to be a casualty of these rapidly moving times. Therefore, I think the golden handcuffs problem will be a lot less common than in the past.

      As for healthcare that is definitely a big problem. I won’t try to go into the whole thing here but I will observe that there are other groups that pool their resources to provide health insurance. There are alternatives to businesses. For example, the AARP has done this for years. There is also a Christian based group called Medi-Share. The Internet allows people to form other groups based on more than where they work. Society is reorganizing. I believe the way we get medical care will change along with it.

      Thanks very much for such an insightful comment!

  2. Crudbasher,

    I appreciate your response…

    In a world with easy communication and access between companies (needing specific tasks done) and workers (willing and able to do such tasks), such short term working relationships will become more prevalent. I read a story on yahoo yesterday about the “sharing” economy that is somewhat relevant here ( and the trust issue is pretty important. It seems to me that issues of “trust” may also affect the loosely structured company / worker relationship – especially for workers who need detailed information about the company’s proprietary data (performance, intellectual property, …) which the company wishes to keep out of its competitors’ hands.

    The insurance problem is a real issue. I did not know that AARP had health insurance. I wasn’t able to tell if the rates were competitive (I couldn’t find the rates online – and I’m not interested enough to request a quote), but it is an option. Anyway, there’s no reason other groups with common interests (with sufficient membership) couldn’t do the same.

    As always, keep up the great blog!

    Have a great weekend,

  3. […] background-position: 50% 0px ; background-color:#222222; background-repeat : no-repeat; } – Today, 11:18 […]

  4. […] my series of posts called Searching for a New Model For Learning I talked about what I see as the characteristics of the way we will learn in the future. This idea […]

  5. […] Searching for a New Model For Learning Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 […]

  6. […] Finally, the article asks the question are students learning as much in MOOCs as they would in a traditional course. This is a bad question. A better question would be what is the rate of return on the investment in time and money? The students are learning a lot because they want to learn it. They are doing it in an environment that is low pressure because a bunch of money isn’t on the line. Turns out, I wrote extensively about this too. (see Searching for a New Model For Learning – Part 4 ) […]

  7. […] I wrote about this a few years ago and here are my characteristics of education in the future. […]

  8. […] See more: Searching for a New Model For Learning – Part 4 […]

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