One of the problems with looking at education as a marketplace is the fact that currently most of the money going into public education is coming from tax dollars. That’s also true of the defense industry, but the defense industry sells essentially to only the defense department; that’s changed to some degree in recent years with the privatization of our military expenditures. Even if new education entrepreneurs are comfortable with being the Blackwaters and Root Browns of the education world, they have the problem of needing to sell to lots of different buyers all around the country. The education market is really a whole bunch of different markets. A new set of national standards might change that, but then again, it might not; there’s a whole lot of school boards all around the country that aren’t interested in giving up control of their schools.
Another other big difference between the education market and the defense market is that the results of the education expenditures show up at the dining room table almost every night. The defense department has done a pretty good job recently in making sure that most of the results of their expenditures don’t show up on the nightly news. I think we want to encourage the results of education to continue showing up in our homes, so entrepreneurs selling to the education market will need to be more retail-oriented than defense contractors and still satisfy school boards and the ‘standards,’ national or not.
The big problem with education as a marketplace is that most of the money for education goes to pay salaries. Charter schools and many of the other ‘reform’ models are really just different ways to pay teachers or control what teachers get paid and how much. Messing with teacher pay has never been shown to make any difference in the product and Daniel Pink and others would tell you that it’s not likely to make much difference, no matter how clever the scheme for paying teachers or governing the teachers.
Technology has probably the biggest chance of becoming a game-changer in education, but there isnt much quick and easy money to be made because even with a new disruptive technology, the real change will only come when teachers change how they teach. If all of the teacher unions and schools of education were somehow wiped out in a very short time, which is actually not that unimaginable if you think about things like how fast the CWA disappeared as a organization when AT&T dismantled itself, it would take years and years to train in a new national teaching staff.