McCain on Education

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Jul 16, 2008

Senator John McCain, the Republican Party’s nominee for President, just finished delivering a speech at the NAACP convention. He spent a good part of the speech talking about the need to reform and improve public education.

One paragraph in particular caught my attention, as it’s all about virtual and online education. According to his Web site, he said:

“We can also help more children and young adults to study outside of school by expanding support for virtual learning. So I propose to direct 500 million dollars in current federal funds to build new virtual schools, and to support the development of online courses for students. Through competitive grants, we will allocate another 250 million dollars to support state programs expanding online education opportunities, including the creation of new public virtual charter schools. States can use these funds to build virtual math and science academies to help expand the availability of Advanced Placement math, science, and computer science courses, online tutoring, and foreign language courses.”

I haven’t dug through the details of this yet as it just caught my eye, but this isn’t the first time Senator McCain has talked about computer-based learning. Clearly he has caught on to the disruptive innovation that is beginning to enter so many of our nation’s school districts and that we chronicle in our book, Disrupting Class.

I’m not sure yet what the proper role for the federal government should be in online learning, but talking about it and making everyone aware of it is a big step forward in bringing this innovation to the market at large so all students can benefit from its exciting potential.

I’d love to hear from people about what they know about the proposal, whether they think it’s a good idea, what they would have the federal government do for online learning in an ideal world, and so on.

Michael is a co-founder and distinguished fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute. He currently works as a principal consultant for Entangled Solutions.