Monday, January 11, 2010
Struggling with Innovation versus Research Based Education
As a charter school advocate, I emphasize the aspect of charter schools that says they ought to be innovative. I am, I guess you could say, an educational libertarian. I'd gladly put myself in a school run by Steve Jobs. So, as I hear more and more that charter schools need to be research based, I cringe a bit. In fact, it strikes me that an innovative and research based program of anything may very well be an oxymoron.
Innovative means something that is new and untried or a major change to something that exists. Research based, seems to imply that something has been tried. Even though it may not be fully implemented, it seems that for something to be research based means that it is established and has a track record.
So, I guess my question is "Doesn't it defeat the purpose of having charter schools, if we require that they be innovative, but also research based?" It seems to me that the very reason for having charter schools is that they implement ideas about which research is later done.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the bureaucracy that seems to be creeping into the charter school world. Perhaps I'm in the minority, but I want my kids in an experiment. As long as it's an experiment that I choose and that isn't chosen for me, I don't have a problem with it. Experiments are how innovation takes place.
Thomas Edison didn't discover the light bulb immediately. He had to experiment. He had to try things that no one else had tried before. Steve Jobs didn't know that Apple computers would be accepted (in fact many laughed at him), but they started a revolution. The iphone is incredibly popular, but it's not because there was lots of research done to demonstrate that people would love it.
Disruptive innovation isn't found by just doing some small things better. Disruptive innovation is made when someone breaks the mold. Call me strange, but I'd rather let a charter school break a few molds in the hopes of finding something truly innovative rather than trusting the same old educators that have a vested interest in the current bureaucracy make minor "research based" changes a little at a time.
I'd rather seek true innovation rather than settle for an oxymoron.