I was at a party last night of colleagues from work. We were all of similar age, being in our late 50's or early sixties and all of us have lived in in our fair city for at least 10 years. All of us had children who had taken various pathways for education and many have children who were the product of the public school system (including my own children). I too was a product of the public school system and until recently have been an advocate of public education.
The landscape is changing and the public education systems in my area appear to be unraveling. My children are done with that phase of their education and I am somewhat removed from these as immediate issues although I do read about them almost daily in the local papers. Some of the attendees of the party have children younger than mine and and still have to grapple of how they will educate them. Of course there is the private school option but even among the university associated parent crowd, home schooling is an option. Hoe schooling is not just for religious fundamentalist crack pots any more.
I was fascinated by some of the stories about the development of the home schooling networks and the remarkable tools at their disposal. It now appears that home schooling is not an all or none phenomena. One of the mothers at this party described the various options available to the families in her neighborhood. Obviously, one can take on all aspects of schooling your children at home and there are all types of resources to do so. More often, groups of families form cooperative arrangements which divide responsibilities and more effectively identify specific areas of expertise. Furthermore they provide the social elements which may be lacking from an environment where children are schooled only by their parents.
The options go beyond even these. There are now opportunities for online courses and also for students to attend private schools for just specific courses. Obviously it takes motivated and bright students and parents to make this work but the outcomes are impressive with home schooled children outperforming their colleagues from public and private schools in almost all arenas. On top of this home schooling is growing in leaps and bounds basically doubling to 1.5 million children between 1997 and 2007. This may bode well for education in general but it does not bode well for the entrenched primary and secondary educational system which has become to a great degree ineffective and bloated.
What I find remarkable about this story is it is a grass roots story. The remarkable and apparently multiple effective options have developed without a central directing force and without massive state spending. As the old model of education has become less and less effective while at the same time more and more expensive, this alternative pathway has emerged in what appears to be a self organizing way. Frederich von Hayek should only be alive to see this!
I think there are lessons from this that we can take to the health care world. The teaching profession was professionalized about the same time that the health care world was as well. The teaching profession created an increasingly ineffective and expensive bureaucracy associated with failing public schools. Those with money escaped to private schools and until recently, those without money were stuck in the public school gulag. The home schooling movement allowed them to escape and for their children to thrive. It did not require a grand plan or obscene amounts of money. It was driven by an army of parents, amateur educators, relatively devoid of specific teaching credentials. The home school phenomena is yet another example of the rise of the amateurs as described by Clay Shirkey and the homeschooling movement can be viewed as a twist on the phenomena of crowdsourcing.
I pose the question to my readers - what elements of healthcare can and will be crowdsourced? I view the major push in the latest round of "reforms" as pushing for the creation of a large public system of health care. As health care reform is implemented and further entrenches an increasingly ineffective health care bureaucracy, we will see the rise of outlets that develop which allow for the public to escape the health care gulag. We all know about concierge medicine, but what other forms will develop and who will offer to provide what the public wants? Will the equivalent of the home health care network, analogous to the homeschooling movement arise? What tasks presently delegated to health care professionals can and will be done by amateurs? How will the state respond to this, as a facilitator or barrier to innovation?