Elon Musk is a conservative and has spent years promoting an alternative to public schools that focuses on the skills that are necessary to run an autonomous car.
In a recent op-ed for the New York Times, Musk argues that the world needs an education that teaches people to think for themselves, to be creative, and to understand how things work.
“I believe the world has a critical need for an education where students learn to think critically and creatively, and learn to make their own decisions and make decisions for themselves,” Musk wrote.
Musk is not alone.
A large number of Americans have embraced alternative education programs and are moving toward an educated workforce.
In 2015, the University of Wisconsin–Madison found that millennials were more likely than older generations to be taking classes that taught students how to solve problems in a creative, self-directed manner.
That year, more than half of students enrolled in the program reported taking at least one class that taught them to think creatively.
A 2016 Pew Research Center study found that the average age of students who received a course of public or private school was 34, with about a third of them receiving it by age 15.
That trend is expected to continue.
“We need a much higher proportion of students in the workforce who are educated to a high standard,” said Sarah Anderson, associate director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in an interview.
“But we’re also at a point where the number of kids in the U.S. who are getting the kinds of opportunities we’ve seen is far outstripping the number who are able to make the leap from kindergarten to college.”
A 2016 report by the American Enterprise Institute found that a growing number of students are graduating high school with some kind of high school equivalency diploma.
“The number of high-school graduates who can graduate with a degree has been declining for decades,” said Amy Cuddy, an assistant professor of education at the University at Buffalo.
“It’s an underreported story.”
And, as the report noted, many states and localities are struggling to provide high school graduation rates that reflect the needs of students and the economy.
“What’s happening to high school grads is a national crisis,” said Cuddy.
The lack of a national high school completion rate has made it difficult for students to get an early start on college and career paths.
“They have a lot of options, but there’s not a lot going on to prepare them to succeed as students,” Cuddy said.
The Trump administration has recently increased funding for states that have struggled to provide the kind of educational opportunities that millennials want.
But, despite the increased support, Anderson said that the situation isn’t perfect.
“There’s no perfect solution for the situation, but we do know there are some things that we can do that are better,” she said.
“And I think that’s why the public has been so excited about this issue.”
The Trump Administration has also signaled that it wants to push for increased funding to public school systems that are struggling financially.
The Education Department, in its 2018 report to Congress, recommended that states spend more on early childhood education, which includes preschool and day care.
And, in a recent budget proposal, Trump suggested that states be allowed to establish charter schools, which would offer parents and students more choice.
“States should be able to create charter schools that are independently operated and privately funded, without government intervention or control,” the budget proposal said.
But for many, charter schools have come with a host of negative effects.
A 2015 report by The Brookings Institution found that charter schools are significantly less effective than public schools in helping to build academic standards, while also negatively impacting students.
“Public schools are already failing kids because they don’t have enough resources to help them grow academically, and they don the same job that they were designed to do,” said Anderson.
“Charter schools are the opposite.
They create the opportunity for kids to thrive in a much better way.”
Some educators are worried about the impact charter schools will have on students.
In 2016, a federal task force called on the Trump administration to study the impacts of charter schools on students and their families.
The report found that many charter schools do not have strong parental support systems, and the number and quality of parents that attend these schools is lower than the average for public schools.
“If you’re trying to get a kid to go to school, the first thing you need to do is give them a chance to grow,” said Michael Schwerdtfeger, a policy analyst at the Brookings Institution.
“You want to have parents who have strong support systems in place, so that when kids are in school they can be challenged and have opportunities for growth.”
As the Trump Administration and charter schools continue to wrestle with funding and school quality, the country is moving toward a future where people will be more empowered to create their own lives and pursue their own futures.
For now, though, there is a lot more work to do.