Memes are anything which can be held in either the conscious or unconscious mind. Examples are how to do long division, the concept of marriage, how to navigate using the sun, and etc.
Memes can be unique and specific to an individual. They can be held by virtually everyone in a society, or by any sized group.
Memes can propagate through the entire world very rapidly. The Internet, email, google, web sites, etc. are all memes.
Over the last 50,000 years our advancement as a species has been due almost entirely to generating and using new memes, or to modifying old ones. Very little progress was due to gene mutations.
Generally speaking, memes cannot be killed. You cannot vote or legislate a meme or set of memes out of existence. Once the genie is out of the the bottle, he is OUT!
Memes can only be superseded by other memes. As with genes, memes grow or wither into meaninglessness based upon the principle "The survival of the Fittest."
Education is build up around memes. Each school has its particular set of memes. Historically (lets say after 1900 to maybe about 1980) sets for different schools had a great deal of commonality.
For several decades now people have become increasingly aware that (in general) schools are failing to educate. The call went out: "Don't just stand there, DO SOMETHING!"
Recently new kinds of schools have been coming on-line. The old meme sets that contain ...
... are being replaced by other meme sets. Now school can take place in the home, on the Internet, or in a traditional classroom. Education can occur via real-world projects, such as environmental monitoring and activism, engineering of new things, solving social problems, writing computer programs, internships, and etc. Some of these meme sets have been around for a long time, but not used to a large extent. They are being rediscovered, reanalyzed, and modified. Others are quite new, such as virtual schools.
Right now we are in a phase of both inventing new meme sets, and in shaking out what works and what doesn't work. That is what the education market place, school choice, charter schools, magnet schools, virtual schools, schools for profit, and etc. are all about. It is simply "The survival of the Fittest" at work.
As in genetic evolution, meme evolution can (and
should!) result in several winners, each filling different niches to
meet the different needs of the students. I think the meme of "One
size fits all" is rapidly weakening. Eventually it should for all
practical purposes disappear.
Is this really a good method of reforming education? I think so. I very firmly believe that human kind is not yet smart enough to design in one fell swoop a good education system from the "Top Down." If we tried, overnight chaos would begin to rain down upon us. If we are not smart enough to know how to design such a complex social system to work with the most complex creation (our brain!), then it would be both arrogant and irrational to assume we can today point at any one education meme set and say "that is the one we will all use." Only time and meme evolution can find the best meme sets.