We have noted, for example, that the basic organization of the present school system parallels that of the factory. For generations, we have simply assumed that the proper place for education to occur is in a school. Yet if the new education is to simulate the society of tomorrow, should it take place in a school at all?
We see here, therefore, a major cultural force in the society – education – being pushed to diversify its output, exactly as the economy is doing. And here, exactly as in the realm of material production, the new technology, rather than fostering standardization, carries us toward super-industrial diversity.
Computers, for example, make it easier for a large school to schedule more flexibly. They make it easier for the school to cope with independent study, with a wider range of course offerings and more varied extracurricular activities. More important, computer-assisted education, programmed instruction and other such techniques, despite popular misconceptions, radically enhance the possibility of diversity in the classroom. They permit each student to advance at his own purely personal pace. They permit him to follow a custom-cut path toward knowledge, rather than a rigid syllabus as in the traditional industrial era classroom.
Moreover, in the educational world of tomorrow, that relic of mass production, the centralized workplace, will also become less important. Just as economic mass production required large numbers of workers to be assembled in factories, educational mass production required large numbers of students to be assembled in schools. This itself, with its demands for uniform discipline, regular hours, attendance checks and the like, was a standardizing force. Advanced technology will, in the future, make much of this unnecessary. A good deal of education will take place in the student’s own room at home or in a dorm, at hours of his own choosing. With vast libraries of data available to him via computerized information retrieval systems, with his own tapes and video units, his own language laboratory and his own electronically equipped study carrel, he will be freed, for much of the time, of the restrictions and unpleasantness that dogged him in the lockstep classroom.