Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Mutually Assured Learning: The Relationship between Virtual For-Profits and Public Schools Can Be Beneficial to All Involved

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Mutually Assured Learning: The Relationship between Virtual For-Profits and Public Schools Can Be Beneficial to All Involved

Article excerpt

THE OTHER DAY I found myself looking up the definition of "symbiosis" because I wasn't sure I was using the word correctly. According to my American Heritage Dictionary (the one I was given by the Detroit News when I was in high school, no less), symbiosis is "the relationship of two or more different organisms in a close association that may be but is not necessarily beneficial to each."

That definition came to mind as I read this month's cover story on how some school districts find themselves competing with virtual for-profit and charter schools for student enrollment (story begins on page 28).

On the surface, this set of affairs may seem detrimental to public schools, which, by their very nature, are not set up to be competitive enterprises. (Oh, I can hear the free-market advocates howling now: Schools should be competitive; if IBM had the same failure rate of schools, the argument goes, it would be out of business. As somebody--not me, although I wish it had been--once said in response: if IBM were compelled by law to hire those who lived in their catchment area, they'd never be in business.)

But if we start with the premise that online education is not only inevitable but desirable, the involvement of for-profit and charter entities in the e-learning marketplace could be a symbiotic relationship that benefits all involved.

First, there's no question in my mind that for-profit entities have made important investments in the development of their virtual offerings and in doing so have upped the ante of the quality of online teaching and curricula. …

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