Politic skirmishes are the visible signs but there is cultural value system at work in education best described as the Guardian Syndrome by Jane Jacobs in Systems of Survival. Now common in public delivery systems, the Machiavellian Guardian Syndrome is based on loyalty and hierarchy, it “shuns trading” and adheres to tradition. The alternative commercial system values competition, initiative and inventiveness.

Efforts to inject values of commerce are attacked as privatization. They occasionally include private management of schools, but in most cases they are nonprofit organizations–TFA, New Schools, KIPP–operating with values foreign and threatening to Guardians.

The Internet doesn’t conform well to Guardian protocols; it is by nature open to “inventiveness and novelty.” This explains some of the resistance to online learning; it just doesn’t fit the boundaries of tradition and the practices of the past.

Guardian SyndromeCommerce Syndrome
Shun tradingShun force
Expert prowessBe efficient
Adhere to traditionBe open to inventiveness & novelty
Respect hierarchyUse initiative & enterprise
Be loyalCome to voluntary agreements
Dispense largesseInvest for productive purposes
Be exclusiveCollaborative easily with strangers & aliens
Be fatalisticBe optimistic
Treasure honorBe honest

An effective 21st century public delivery system needs the values on the right side of the list; that doesn’t imply private but it does demand responsive.

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