As millennials become America's largest generation, their views will shape public opinion and policy for years to come. With National School Choice Week fast approaching, it's important to take a look at what this might mean for the future of education. Will millennials want us to stay with a one-size-fits-all education, or are they looking for new options that will allow more customization in an increasingly customized world? The recent report Millennials and Education by Echelon Insights dug into just this, and the results were encouraging.
Echelon pollster Kristen Soltis-Anderson (who is something of an expert on millennials) told TruthRevolt:
Millennials have an appetite for big change in our schools. They think favorably about their own experiences as students, but don’t think most kids today are getting a good education.
Overall, the research found, this generation knows that education is key to opportunity. Perhaps paradoxically, though, while most students felt their own education was good, most felt it prepared them for little post high-school, and definitely not for life once their education was completed. Throughout the research, according to the report, two major themes shone through: millennial students thought schools could be improved by flexibility and creativity. "We asked if they’re more worried we will change too much about the schools or not enough," said Soltis-Anderson, "they were more likely to say they worry we will be too timid and not change things enough."
Flexibility and creativity are two of the things that draw people to school choice, as these schools, free from much of the bureaucracy bogging down traditional schools, can be nimble and responsive to student needs. Most millennials, the study found, know that students are traditionally assigned to a school based on where they live, but "but when pushed on whether that’s how things should be, people are uncomfortable or unsure that they think that status quo is right." The same went for charter schools, according to Soltis-Anderson:
Most millennials are not deeply familiar with school choice or charters, but with a basic, neutral description, these concepts are more warmly embraced. In particular, millennials like the idea of introducing more creativity and flexibility into teaching - something choice and charters makes possible.
This just makes sense given the world that millennials have come to expect. As the report says, "having come of age in a world where internet access is widely available and mobile phones the norm, this generation’s expectations about speed, flexibility, and transparency have shaped their views on consumer brands and major institutions."
Tommy Schultz of the American Federation for Children told TruthRevolt that Millennials have grown up with school choice and recognize its value:
Millennials clearly recognize that the current system of K-12 education needs to give kids access to a quality education, but that's not happening for every child. In every poll, you'll usually see more than 70% of Millennials supporting school choice to help provide that opportunity because for the past 20-30 years, we've grown up with charter schools, vouchers, and tax credit scholarships and have personally witnessed the success of these choice offerings. And as the Echelon survey shows, we simply don't believe in the backwards notion that your ZIP code should be the sole determinant of your education and path in life.
Unfortunately, the educational establishment on the left is still working against it. Several groups and legislators are working to make school choice a reality across the country but, unfortunately, giving families the opportunity to choose the school that would work best for their children has become a political issue. Kids, disproportionately poor children and children of color, are trapped in neighborhoods with underperforming schools, unable to access the education required to get out. Yet teacher's unions and the Democrat lawmakers they fund fight incredibly hard against school choice, something that writer David Harsanyi calls "immoral." They rail against those who would let parents have access to better schools which would increase racial and socio-economic integration while painting school choice as racist.
Families know it is the best thing for them and, fortunately, millennials support more options for education. Hopefully, we can get past the partisan rhetoric and get down to doing what's best for kids.