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April 4, 2016

2 min

Mark Holley

It's Time To Stop Stifling Innovation In Education

I recently came across a very interesting series on Netflix that aired about a year ago on the National Geographic channel called “American Genius.” The episode that jumped out to me (now that we can choose what episodes we want to watch, even out of order) was “Wright Brothers vs. Curtis.” Rather than summarize it myself, here’s a summary from the National Geographic website:

The race for flight is chronicled as aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright face off against Glenn Curtiss in a bitter rivalry that puts lives at risk. After developing the airplane, the Wright brothers keep the technical details under wraps for years, out of fear of losing control of their invention. Meanwhile, Curtiss boldly goes public with his airplanes and innovations and quickly becomes a popular face of flight. The Wright brothers, now patent holders in control of all powered flight, counter with lawsuits; as they hold fast, they stifle innovation in the very industry they’ve launched. Go inside the rivalry so heated that, when Wilbur dies, Orville blames Curtiss for driving him to exhaustion. Scientist Bill Nye, famed theoretical physicist Michio Kaku and others offer insight into the epic showdown that laid the groundwork for modern aviation.

When I watched this episode, I couldn’t help but think of the current state of education. How much innovation has been lost fighting school choice in the courts and in legislative bodies? The Wright Brothers began to be so protective of their invention that they lost out on opportunities to make it better. Aviation as a whole suffered, which surely wasn't their intention. Their energy went to protecting something that was good, or even great, rather than making it even better or greater. This is happening today in education.

Fortunately, at Method Schools we benefit from having great partnerships with many school districts and other charter schools. But overall, serious improvements are needed to ensure that innovation in education can occur. This can’t happen if school districts and charter schools are battling in the courts about whose idea for education is best. Let the customers – students and their families – decide. In the end, this will allow for better educational opportunities for all students.

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