Virtual Voices

Richard the hybrid student

Education

I'd like to introduce you to Richard the hybrid student. Richard is a senior and pitches for the Leon High School baseball team in Tallahassee, Fla, and he's part of a revolution that's sweeping the nation.

Although a bit small for his age during his freshman year, Richard was a good baseball player and told his father that he wanted to try out for the Leon junior varsity team. His father was concerned that Richard might suffer social backlash from teammates because the young right-hander was enrolled in just one Leon High class, so he advised Richard to ponder his decision for 24 hours. Undaunted, Richard impressed the coach and was immediately accepted by his teammates.

In addition to his Leon High class, Richard was enrolled in a class at a classical Christian school and in three more online classes at home. For extracurriculars, he fulfilled his drama interests by joining a local theatre troupe. Moreover, some of his teammates were doing the same kind of thing. In other words, Richard wasn't such an oddball after all. Welcome to the revolution Richard's father, William Mattox, now calls "hybrid education."

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I met William last week in Dallas at Resource Bank, a conference for think tank operatives sponsored by The Heritage Foundation. The resident fellow with the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee was on a panel addressing education reform.

It's no secret that there's growing discontent with the cost and performance of public primary and secondary education. Moreover, many parents who've chosen alternative forms of education for their children are likely to acknowledge that there's no one form of education that meets all of their family's needs, and Mattox's definition of hybrid education is increasingly becoming the solution to this problem.

"All schools-and types of schooling-have weaknesses," Mattox said. "No school can fulfill every kid's needs-there may be a magic bus, but there's no magic school." Thanks to state-based education reforms, such as those established by then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush 12 years ago, parents are increasingly choosing from a menu of educational offerings to personalize solutions for each of their children's unique needs.

Mattox told me that Michael Horn of the Innosight Institute and co-author of Disrupting Class coined the term "hybrid education." From what I can tell, Horn's definition focuses on hybrid online learning in which teachers customize and teach courses via the internet. Mattox expands the definition to include not only online learning but also traditional public and private school classes and nontraditional extracurricular activities like his son's theater troupe.

As is typical of Americans, when we see a problem such as the decline of the traditional education model we develop and find solutions. Indeed, my oldest son, a soccer player, has been part of the hybrid education revolution and I didn't even realize it. I thought we were among a relatively small group of oddballs. I learned that I was mistaken when Mattox told Resource Bank attendees, "Hybrid schooling has become so common that Richard's peers don't find it strange at all." My son's experience was similar. Legal and technological innovations, combined with parental dissatisfaction and determination, are leading to a brighter educational future for Richard Mattox and thousands of other children. The hybrid revolution is on.

Lee Wishing
Lee Wishing

Lee is the administrative director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.

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