Maybe we should teach at the mall

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After dropping my kids off at school, I sat at a traffic light, gazing pensively at an adjacent shopping mall. I noticed the name Simon and realized that this amazing place is owned and operated by a large corporation. At that moment, it struck me that shopping malls and schools are strikingly similar.

Simon is to the mall as a superintendent is to a school district. The mall is filled with stores, all housed under the supervision of Simon. The district is filled with school buildings, under the direction of the superintendent.


The mall has stores, each with its own manager. The school district has various grade-level buildings, each managed by a principal.

The stores have salesmen, and the schools have teachers. Customers visit stores to buy products, and students go to school to acquire information.

So, what separates the mall and the school district?

My only answer is that the shopping mall’s customers have autonomy. They can choose what places to patronize and traverse the mall as they please.

Apart from this, I see very little difference in these two organizations. They both use a top-down management model. They are both driven by competition, and both always decide what products to offer their clients, based on a standardized form of assessment.

What’s the point of this comparison? I’m not entirely sure; maybe we should think of teaching our students at the mall.

Not much would change in terms of how well they are educated, but perhaps the economy would improve.

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series -- books and other series that provide right-now solutions for teachers and learners. Mark is the author or publisher of dozens of books, including Bestseller Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Join more than 150,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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