Posted Monday, April 16, 2012, at 1:52 PM
The prospect of online education continues to attract a lot of interest and commentary in various circles, but I think the issue that people considering this need to ponder has nothing to do with convention and signaling and everything to do with yoga. Specifically, what is it that's driving all these people to show up in person at yoga classes. It would clearly be cheaper and more convenient to just unroll your yoga mat in your living room and work out while watching yoga videos.
And I assume that some people do this. Back in the VCR days, I seem to recall a vogue for selling exercise tapes of various kinds. But it seems to me that rather than improved video distribution technology leading us to rely more on exercise videos than we did 20 years ago, increased wealth has led us to rely less on them. When possible, people simply prefer to do this in person with a live human being standing in front of them. Americans tend to be stingier with their money in their role as taxpayers than as consumers (so city buses are shabby compared to private ones and sidewalks are much dirtier than shopping malls) so public education dollars may well end up being sent almost exclusively down the more cost-effective virtual route. But in their capacity as private consumers, I think affluent Americans parents will continue to foot the bill for their kids to get schooled in person just like they'll keep going to yoga class and keep paying for increasingly expensive summer camps.