Charlie Martin wonders if a one-room schoolhouse model would be economically feasible in modern times. This pondering leads him to the titular question. First off, what kind of results would one expect from such an education system?

Once upon a time, an American public school student was expected to be able to name principal parts of speech; define and give examples of verse, stanza, and paragraph; write an intelligible one-page composition; compute interests, discounts, and tax rates; describe major events in U.S. history; have an understanding of the U.S. government; and be sufficiently familiar with geography to be able to talk about climate, its causes and effects, and to identify and locate continents, major rivers, and important world capitals, in order to graduate.

From the eighth grade.

Sounds nice, but certainly our conveyor-belt mass-production public education system is more efficient than a one-room school, right?

So, as a thought experiment, I constructed a proposal for a revived one-room school. Since I had a cost per student for New York, I’d develop a plan for New York City — in fact, for midtown Manhattan, using midtown Manhattan rents. Could I pay a teacher enough to live on, with a one-room school, based on New York costs per student?

The full details are on a page on my own blog Explorations, but here are the basics. The Adams County school has room for 24 students, so we assume 24 students in Manhattan, and a one-room school built in quality office space in midtown. I laid out a floor plan and discovered we could fit it nicely into 1,050 square feet; equip it with good quality desks and chairs and with one iMac computer for every two students, plus one for the teacher and a Mac Pro as a classroom server; and add Internet connections and $1,000 per student for books and supplies. How much remained to hire a teacher?

$230,000. Almost a quarter of a million dollars.

Our modern public education system is a farce that not only produces a sub-standard product (students who can barely read) but does so at exorbitant expense. Go read the details and ponder for yourself where all the money is being wasted.

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