In recent weeks, I’ve written that the coronavirus is not creating a new era, but forcing us to recognize that a new era has already begun. This new era — driven by the digital revolution— has been sneaking up on us for decades. 

For centuries, everything in American culture tended towards greater centralization. Since the invention of the microchip in the 1970s, however, cultural trends have reversed course and moved towards decentralization. This dramatic shift threatens traditional institutions by putting unprecedented power in the hands of every individual. I call this change the Great Turnaround

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For decades, the field of education has resisted society’s decentralizing trends. In fact, the political process that governs our public schools has moved consistently in the opposite direction. But we live in a world where the culture leads and politics lag behind. If society is decentralizing, eventually control of our education system will have to decentralize as well. In practical terms, that means giving more control to teachers and parents. 

It now looks like the coronavirus will serve as the catalyst to help our schools catch up to the decentralizing trends of the larger society. The pandemic has forced millions of teachers, parents and students to try an unplanned and unexpected experiment in homeschooling. Teachers are learning new ways to connect with students — some work and others flop. Parents are facing new questions about what to push and what to let slide. Many students will thrive, others will get by and an untold number will never crack an e-book. 

This might best be considered an extended experiment in a nationwide laboratory of education. Or, perhaps as something akin to a business incubator bringing to life the next great model of education. Over a fairly short period of time, this new model will radically reshape schools throughout the nation. 

I say this while recognizing that the vast majority of students will return to fairly traditional schools next fall. On the surface, it will appear that nothing has changed. 

But I also recognize that 82% of teachers consider making a difference in students’ lives to be one of the most rewarding aspects of the job. These teachers will not unlearn what they learned during the pandemic. Because they care about their students, most will try to bring effective new techniques into the classroom and teaching experience. Some will encounter pushback from bureaucrats who say we’ve never done it that way before. A few will begin to think that they can have a bigger impact in nontraditional settings. 

It won’t be long before some teachers go out on their own to start new and innovative schools. Less adventurous colleagues will sign on to collaborate with their more entrepreneurial peers. The numbers will be small at first but will grow as the concept becomes more visible. Unleashing the creativity of great teachers to meet the needs of students will lead to solutions no one can even imagine today. 

The new teacher-led schools will come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some will be small and meet in the home of students or the educator. A more innovative option might be for schools to operate in office buildings where Mom and Dad work. That could be a nice employee benefit for leading firms to offer. Churches, abandoned retail stores, and other facilities are also quite possible. The physical location won’t matter as much as the cooperation of teachers and parents to provide a quality experience for each student. 

As a practical matter, most of the new schools will eventually fail. That’s the fate of all new ventures. Besides, not every great teacher will also have the skill set needed to found and run a school.

But those who succeed will define a 21st-century model of education that is far more vibrant and relevant than anything we can imagine today. We can’t know precisely what it will look like, but we can take comfort from the fact that it will be developed from the ground up by teachers and parents who want what’s best for their students and children. 

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll take a look at how this decentralizing trend is likely to reshape our political world and the health care industry.

Scott Rasmussen is an American political analyst and digital media entrepreneur. He is the author of “The Sun is Still Rising: Politics Has Failed But America Will Not.”