With Francisco Javier Hernandez Jr.
Michael Horn is passionate about the future of education. He is the co-founder of and a distinguished fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a non-profit think tank. He authored and coauthored multiple books and articles on education, including Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns and Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. His expertise is in disruptive innovation, online learning, blended learning, competency-based learning, and student-centered education systems.
Q: A fully educated population is essential to any healthy democracy. That being said, is the institution of compulsory schooling one factor that contributes to a general discouragement of lifelong learning? Are people less likely to fall in love with learning if their association with learning is through mandatory education?
A: That’s a really intriguing question. I don’t think I know the answer. Although I’m not sure whether schooling is mandatory or not would have a universal impact on all citizens in the same way in how they view learning, I do think there is something important in reframing learning. We should reframe learning away from something that happens just in school at discreet times in. We should do aways with the sense of school as a ladder, as something you eventually ascend and do away with, and begin to see it instead as something that you do your entire life, driven by need and curiosity.
When I was in Korea on my Eisenhower Fellowship, even though I had heard about it, I was still stunned to see scores of students sleeping during their formal schooling and then awake late, late at night in their hagwon after school programs where they did their actual learning. I remember being surprised when a teacher said to a student, “Oh, you don’t know that? Tonight at your hagwon make sure they teach you that.” And it became clear to me that if formal public school wasn’t mandatory, I was pretty sure the majority of the country would instead make their hagwon their primary mode of schooling. Of course, in Korea, there is a lot of extrinsic motivation to study and learn to pass a test and get into a good university because historically that was the only way to get a good job and move into prosperity. That is changing so it will be interesting to see if the intense interest in hagwons does as well.