“Like the larger context of suburbia, the giant consolidated schools seemed like a good idea at the time. The idea was to save administrative costs throughout a given district or region and the unanticipated consequence was to make education a loathsome and pointless experience for the students. The public schools are well on their way to just collapsing under the weight of their outlandish costs, especially their pension obligations, and the onerous school bus fleets.
Similarly, the colleges that have absorbed the flow of public school graduates — many of them ill-prepared for higher ed — using the loan racket to support their operations, are verging on criticality en route to collapse. Two colleges in my region shut down this year: Green Mountain College in Poultney, VT, and Southern Vermont College in Bennington. A third, Hampshire College over in western Massachusetts, is “looking for a new partner,” i.e. whirling around the drain. Many more will be following them.
The psychology of previous investment plays a big part in all this. Having spent so much of our national wealth building all this stuff, we can’t imagine letting go of it. And we built it during the decades of our greatest wealth accumulation. Now that we are paying today’s bills by borrowing from the future (i.e. accumulating massive debt), we can’t really continue to maintain all this infrastructure. But we’ll continue to pretend we can until we reach the moment of systemic criticality, where reality can no longer be denied. It’s liable to be messy. Like moments of criticality in natural systems — earthquakes, avalanches — financial shock tends to be quick, disorderly, and destructive.
The resolution of all this will be emergent, too, like its origin. That is, it will work itself out nonlinearly and chaotically. As for schooling itself across the whole spectrum from primary to higher ed, a lot of it will simply collapse and disappear, at least for a period of time, maybe a long time. It is most likely to reorganize on the fine grain of home schooling or home schools that aggregate into group teaching. But education will be nothing like the gargantuan enterprise it has been in our time. Some institutions of higher ed may survive, if they can downscale stringently. But anything organized at the giant scale is likely to find it very difficult to go on.” – James Howard Kunstler