The current school system is broken. Systematically, comprehensively, and completely broken. Fixing education can’t happen from inside the system – it must come through innovation outside the school.

In the eighth episode of the Success Without School series, co-hosts Hannah Frankman of rebelEducator and Deb Fillman of the Reason We Learn discuss the problems plaguing our education system, and the innovation required to fix them.

Hannah and Deb explore why it is impossible to fix the system from within, and the problems that attempts to do this in the past have faced. They also discuss what an effective education approach might look like (they prefer the idea of a “marketplace of options,” rather than a single system), and some examples of innovative models that are already working.

The conversation covers the underlying problems of the public school system in America, and why innovative solutions are the future..

Topics covered:

  • What is the meaning of a broken education system? (for Hannah) (2:13)
  • What is the meaning of a broken education system? (for Deb) (5:45)
  • What does “fixing” the education system mean? (for Hannah) (8:21)
  • What does “fixing” the education system mean? (for Deb) (10:30)
  • What was the idea behind the current education system? (19:02)
  • How simplifying the curriculum is breaking the system further (27:12)
  • Why the childcare element of the school system is so important (and what Innovative options exist) (35:04)
  • Increasing school choice as a form of effective reform (50:32)


Synthesis School: Synthesis School is the successor to Elon Musk’s Ad Astra school for the children of SpaceX employees. Children learn collaborative problem solving, strategic communication, and team decision-making through game-based learning. Synthesis School was initially funded by SpaceX and is now backed by a number of tech and education investors. .

Alpha School: Alpha School is one of the new alternative schools in Austin, Texas making great use of learning apps and technology to teach children core academic subjects. Students often learn core math and English at 2X the speed of their peers attending public school, and take a mastery-based approach to their learning.


Notable quotes

“To fix the system, somehow, we have to come up with a way where the average child goes through the 12 years of education (or whatever number years works for him) and emerges on the other side as a fully formed, fully functional, fully competent adult. That is the goal, that is the dream.” – Hannah Frankman (9:56)

“We really have to break (this) down. Like, we have to take a pickaxe to the incredibly calcified mental framework that we collectively hold as a society about what education is. In order for us to make any meaningful changes to both the education that kids experience and also the outcomes that emerge as a result of that education.” – Hannah Frankman (15:25)

“If you have tools like learning apps that kids have access to, when kids are motivated to learn in some capacity, they can blow through everything they need to learn in a traditional K-12 setting so quickly it’s ridiculous. And there are a lot of different models that are being built around the knowledge that this is possible.” – Hannah Frankman (28:35)

“We’re going to see a really big shift in how people talk about education options. People are going to realize that there are other options out there, that they can just as easily send their kids to Prenda, as they can to a public elementary school. We’re going to start to see public schools being outcompeted. They are going to either have to get their act together, or they are going to have to fold.”– Hannah Frankman (51:17)

You can view the entire episode on Youtube

Kovid Bhaduri

Kovid Bhaduri

Kovid Bhaduri is a self directed learner and the author of “A one stop guide to productivity”. He has previously worked in SEZ research and spends his free time playing music and learning economics.

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