Education is not a solved problem

May 6, 2022
Mar 10, 2021

Education is a humanity-defining technology—and a system of wicked problems. Emily Anders, an educator at Primer whose past titles include classroom teacher and engineer, shares why she chooses to work on education problems at Primer.

The Primer team is small and ambitious - at times we are bookish; at others, bombastic. We each have our own “thing,” that private lens through which we see vast opportunity in a future that just makes sense. Want to know how personal spaces help us form active identities? Sit down with Elizabeth (and prepare for some sparkle). Not yet convinced that digital tools can enable our minds to operate more creatively? Give Maksim a call. We are united by the risk we’re taking by doing some of the most important work of our lives: helping families create incredible learning experiences for the next generation.

People have been learning with, from, and sometimes in spite of one another for a long time. Education is right up there with “opposable thumbs” when it comes to defining humanity. Learning and learning to learn are awesome in the most literal sense. The importance of education has not, and likely will not change, but the ways that we learn cannot be static.

Part of working at startups means thinking—no, knowing—that you can do something incredible. It can be naïve, but sometimes this ends up being true: we might really invent a new form of learning! I love working on this dream. I’m never more than three sentences away from “digitally enabled project-based learning will transform humanity!" This will, of course, take time, so we have a pretty cool near-term plan to help us get started.

The tools we’re building enable distributed learning labs where educators can build learning environments around individual kids. These educators are parents, mentors, and circles of friends. They operate these labs at kitchen tables, playgrounds, and out in their communities. There are patterns in the millions of everyday moments of discovery that can help everyone fuel a lifelong love of learning.    

As a former classroom teacher, I see the global homeschooling community as the ultimate charter school—with all the baggage and glory those institutions carry. Families are setting up learning environments free from the logistical constraints of traditional public school; kids are learning in ways that work better for their own brains, interests, and values. We’re working to make it easier to create spaces that enable the messy, joyful process of learning.

I’ll be the first to admit that novel approaches won’t work perfectly for every child, every time. Decentralized systems suffer from a painful sacrifice: radical agency costs the systems their consistency. As an educator, I’m betting that the breakthrough moments are worth it.

Most schools start entrusting kids with their own learning sometime around age 15, but we know that most kids can command their educational journeys much earlier than we’re used to. We’ll show that everyone can learn and do hard things, and we’ll prove that accomplishing those challenges is both impactful and really delightful. A school’s lack of time and resources doesn’t need to end conversations about doing what works for kids. 

Education is not a solved problem. We stand on the shoulders of incalculable amounts of research, experience, and improvements to one of humankind’s oldest technologies. We are humbled and energized by the opportunity to help author the next chapter. If you are too, we hope you’ll join us.

Emily, Education Team

Do you find yourself resonating with Emily's thoughts? Want to work on education's biggest problems with an ambitious team? We'd love to hear what you think. You can check out our open roles on our hiring page.