One Size Fits None
In 1950, the United States Air Force had a problem.
Its airplanes were falling out of the sky way too often.
Despite it now being peacetime, far too many of the Air Force’s pilots were still dying - often, inexplicably, in training.
A team of researchers at Wright Air Force Base in Ohio discovered the cause.
You see, early cockpits had been designed based on the average measurements of pilots - including things like height, weight, arm length, and other physical dimensions.
But, it turned out that not a single pilot was actually average across the 10 variables measured.
Even on the three most important dimensions, less than 5% of all airmen were even close to “average”.
The most powerful military in the world had designed their cockpits for the average pilot.
But not a single pilot was actually average.
And a cockpit that is the wrong size, even by a little bit, can significantly impact a pilot’s reaction time, and get them killed.
The Air Force assumed one size fits all.
But, in reality, one size fits none.
The solution was simple - adjustable seats, adjustable pedals, adjustable helmets, adjustable everything.
We now take this kind of customization for granted and couldn’t imagine being without it in our cars, nevermind in a fighter jet.
And yet, in other aspects of our lives, we’re still making the same mistake.
To this day, too many aspects of our classrooms, our schools, and our education system are designed for a mythical “average” student.
But, one size doesn’t fit all.
In reality, as with many other things, one size fits none.
Parents only need to have a second child to realize that children are not one-size-fits-all.
So their education can’t be either.
Thankfully, this is one area where Alberta’s education system has made great progress.
For all the justified issues with Alberta’s education system parents, grandparents, and taxpayers have raised to us, Alberta has long been recognized for offering a world-class K-12 education.
This is true even though Alberta spends the least on education of any province in Canada.
We get more for less because we have had world-class freedom of choice in education.
Alberta has innovated with public, separate, francophone, alternative program, charter, independent, and home education.
Money has followed the child to each of these options - not perfectly - but enough to allow innovation to flourish.
Now, though, Alberta is falling behind the innovation we’re seeing in Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Spain, and the soon-to-be ten US states that have implemented universal voucher systems.
In many of these places, they are seeing a new innovation that we have also seen spring out of the pandemic period.
Families, spontaneously, without researchers or educrats giving them permission, formed learning pods.
Families, on their own, get ten or twenty kids together and hire one teacher, with no bureaucracy, just parents taking direct responsibility.
They have been wildly successful in the jurisdictions that have allowed them space to flourish, helping kids the one-size-fits-all system had given up on - often Indigenous children, the poorest children, and the most rural children.
In Alberta, though, they don’t quite fit into the model of home education, and they don’t quite fit into the model of an independent school (not to mention models that require even more regulation).
So, learning pods are being stifled here.
On our tour of the province, unleashing learning pods to innovate more options for families was universally popular among the parents, grandparents, and taxpayers we met.
Alberta has an opportunity to retake our place as an innovative education landscape, featuring world-class school choice.
Premier Danielle Smith’s mandate letter to the new Minister of Education, Demetrios Nicolaides, tasks him with promoting greater choice in education.
Learning pods would be a big first step he could take to fulfill that mandate.
If you agree, and you want to help the Alberta Parents’ Union promote this, and other solutions to improve education, you can add your voice to our growing chorus of parents by joining us today:
We are working toward a world where education is as customizable as everything else we truly value.
-Jeff and the Alberta Parents’ Union Team
P.S. If you want us to be able to do more research and present more innovative ideas to legislators, please consider making a donation to our small but highly effective team. Every cent is used towards seeing more freedom for families and more options for kids.