LOPEZ: “It’s easy to miss just how many rigidities are introduced into American life by the traditional public-school approach, but those rigidities are legion. Getting rid of them may help address other problems.” Which are top on your priority list?
REYNOLDS: My daughter did online high school, and I discovered those rigidities amount to two things: time and space. The time part means locking students up away from the world all day. When she did online school, she was able to work at a real job during the daytime. She learned a lot more from working around high-functioning adults than she would have by hanging out with teenagers. The space part has to do with schools and real estate. All sorts of people wind up living in places they’d otherwise avoid, because of high prices or long commutes, just to ensure that their kids get a decent education. And if their neighborhood gets zoned for a different school, their property values might plummet for that reason alone.
LOPEZ: Are those rigidities part of the spiritual problem of American education you mention in the book?
REYNOLDS: I think so. The time part more than the space part, but yes. It’s fundamentally artificial to cram a bunch of people the same age in one place and separate them from society.
LOPEZ: Would you abolish the concept of teenagers if you could?
REYNOLDS: People think that teenagers act the way they do because of biology, but the teenager is mostly a modern social invention. We turned young adults into teenagers by taking away anything productive for them to do. A century or more ago, they were important parts of a family’s economic picture. Now they’re consumers, not producers. In pre-modern times, they were around mostly adults, and tended to try to act in ways that earned respect from those adults. Now they’re herded together with other teens, and tend to try to act in ways that other teens respect, ways that are usually a lot less constructive.
LOPEZ: You point out that you may be a potential loser in education reform — as a tenured professor “who is making out all right as it is.” You’re okay with that?
REYNOLDS: Yeah. The current professoriate has had a good ride, but in the past decade or two in particular, that ride has been mostly on the backs of increasingly indebted students and parents. That can’t go on forever, and shouldn’t.
LOPEZ: What’s so great about homeschooling?
REYNOLDS: Well, it’s not for everybody. But nobody cares as much about your kids as you do. Nobody.
LOPEZ: How has the Internet changed since you started Instapundit? What do you like of what you see? What would you caution against? What do you worry about?
REYNOLDS: Some things haven’t changed, and some things have. What hasn’t changed is that it’s still really open. There are lots of newcomers who become well-known based solely on their abilities, whether in blogs, on Twitter, or whatever.
I miss the fun of the early days, say from 2001 until late 2002. There was much more left-right camaraderie in the blogosphere because we were all doing something new and exciting, and that was more important than where we differed. That seemed to change really fast after the 2002 elections, but it was bound to happen. It’s like another one of my interests, electronic music. In the beginning, we were all dancing in warehouses and talking about Peace Love Unity and Respect. Then, after a while, it got big, and everything changed. But that’s the way of things.
My caution/warning is this: People are generally a lot nicer in real life than they are on the Internet. And I say that as someone who has mostly been surprised by how many nice people I’ve met via the Internet. But if you spend too much time on the Internet, the world seems like a meaner place than it really is. I worry that more and more people are spending too much time on the Internet.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.