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The Differences Between Learning Communities and “Traditional Schools”

The differences between Learning Communities and a “Traditional School”

  • A School is established by the Central Body, Government, Business, or Church to teach what the Government, Business, or Church wants the community to know and do.
    • A Learning Community is established by the Community to find and teach the most optimal paradigms.
  • A School is One way – Teacher to Student.
    • A Learning Community is Peer-to-Peer.
  • A School has fixed and static curriculum.
    • A Learning Community has a flexible and dynamic curriculum.
  • A School expects learning to happen in a linear way, moving from point A to Point N in a straight line.
    • A Learning Community expects learning to happen in a unique way for each learner.


A Learning Community is focused on finding the best solution, not just promoting existing solutions.

Let’s look at Bob Jones University as an example.  Their Mission statement says.

Within the cultural and academic soil of liberal arts higher education, Bob Jones University exists to grow Christlike character that is scripturally disciplined, others-serving, God-loving, Christ-proclaiming and focused above.

As a Christian liberal arts higher education institution we:

  • educate the whole person through a biblically integrated liberal arts curriculum.
  • equip individuals with a biblical worldview and with the ability to defend that worldview.
  • A Christian higher education institution committed to helping Christian students grow in Christlikeness
  • teach individuals to apply the Scriptures to practical Christian living.
  • seek to develop individuals who are committed to Jesus Christ as Lord, who are engaged in service and leadership in a biblically faithful local church, and who have a compelling concern for reaching the unconverted with the Gospel.
  • are steadfastly committed to remaining faithful to the biblical doctrine and principles in our founding charter.

And let’s look at Bob Jones University description of their Biology Class.

Bio 100: General Biology I

4 CR.
An introduction to the fundamental concepts of biology on the cellular level. Topics include the basic chemistry of cells; experimental design and scientific method; a proper Christian philosophy of science; eukaryotic cell structure; cellular transport mechanisms; cell division; basic transmission genetics and the encoding and expression of information in cells. Lecture and lab.

Clearly Bob Jones University is promoting an existing solution; Christianity.  As their Biology class clearly shows any solution must fit into the already existing solution, “a proper Christian philosophy of Science.

Contrast that with the Mission Statement from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Our educational philosophy is rooted in the belief that transformational ideas start with rigorous INQUIRY. You’ll learn to evaluate problems and opportunities through fundamental disciplines that underlie how organizations function, how markets work, and how people make decisions.

With this diverse array of analytical and behavioral tools, you’ll see things in new ways. This set of frameworks provides a variety of lenses that offer greater clarity and understanding, and an ability to see connections that transcend accepted wisdom.

Recognize, however, that even the University of Chicago tends to have a bias.  My understanding is that the University of Chicago, particularly their economics and business programs are steeped in the Austrian Economic Model.  While, that may or may not be the case, at least in their mission statement they try to, as they say,

” see connections that transcend accepted wisdom.”


A School is One-Way Teacher to Student.  A Learning Community is Peer-to-Peer

Look at most classes and it is all about the “Sage on the Stage.”  This made a lot of sense in the days of physical libraries.  It made more sense for one person to go to the library and do the research and then report back to the community.   After all it was not possible for multiple people to read the same book at the same time.

The Internet changed all that.  Now everyone can read the same book at the same time and we can all analyze and comment.

Youtube is a great example.  If I want to learn how to build a WordPress Webpage.  I simply type in how to build a wordpress webpage and I get a lot of people positing videos of how to do just that.  I don’t need to go to a school to learn how to build WordPress Websites.


A School has Fixed and Static Curriculum.  A Learning Community has a flexible and dynamic Curriculum.

The way traditional schools work is they get a class “accredited” by some accreditation authority.  Once a class is accredited it is fixed in time.  And if you look at Bob Jones University they use the Bible, which was fixed in time in the 1st Century and has changed very little since then.

A Learning Community recognizes that every day new information is presented that can change any number of things.


A School expects learning to happen in a linear way.  A Learning Community expects learning to happen in a way that is unique to each learner.

Schools operate on an 18th Century factory assembly line approach to learning.   One starts at point A.  They take a prescribed set of courses in a prescribed order.  And everyone has to go though that same process.

Learning Communities assume everyone’s path to learning is different.

Here is a great video that describes this process.