Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Tom Peters on Dramatic Difference

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.
--Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple

If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less.
-- General Eric Shinseki, US Army

Two great quotes from Tom Peters "Dramatic Difference" presentation. Very much fit my ideas on the future of teachers as free agents and freelancers.

You have to wonder, how long before the traditional dinosaurs feel the squeeze. Maybe Im wrong. Maybe nothing will change. Maybe schools and language programs will continue to get by doing the same damn thing forever. Maybe they wont become irrelevant.

But I dont think so. Here's what I see on the horizon:

Distance learning opens up a whole new ballgame for schools. Your hometown university now finds itself in direct competition with schools all over the world. Why study English, for example, with the local bureaucracy- when video streaming, free international phone calls (with video and great sound), vast resources, distance learning software, online communities, online libraries, online audio files, one on one mentoring, course customization, and a respected degree can be had from better programs elsewhere... all from the comfort of your own home-- at a cheaper price!

Students will no longer be stuck with the paltry choices limited by local geography. Theyll have a massive array of customized programs to choose from.

Will the traditional bureaucracies fall apart? I doubt it. But I think they will lose a significant number of top students... and increasingly get stuck with the less motivated, less skilled, less autonomous, and less interested (ie. become the K-Marts of education). Doesnt sound like a fun teaching situation to me.

Most educators, for some reason, seem to think they will be immune from the sweeping changes that have rocked the manufacturing, service, communications, and business world. While those folks fight for their lives to catch up and race ahead... education plods along in 19th century industrial mode.

The thinking seems to be, "We've got a monopoly that no one can touch. We've created a system that makes the student completely dependent on us for grades and a degree (in order to get a job)... so we can do whatever we want. Why change? We've got it made. "

But this ignores, I think, some looming challenges.

One: Many businesses,... the ones on the cutting edge of change, are increasingly dis-satisfied with the education system. Read books and blogs by Info Technology folks-- its impossible to ignore the glaring contempt they have for traditional schools. Their field demands innovative, bold, project-oriented decision makers; what they get from education are timid conformists terrified of standing out. How long before these companies look elsewhere for their talent?

And when a degree from Boring U. no longer ensures a great job... how long before students look elsewhere? How long before the only ones applying are those content to work in old-school dying markets (paper shufflers, clock punchers)?

I honestly have no idea.... but my gut tells me, sooner than we may expect.