Writing recently in the Huffington Post’s education blog, Eric Sheninger, a Senior Fellow at the International Center for Leadership in Education, declares Education is Ripe for Disruption. Just like “Blockbuster, Blackberry, and the taxicab industry”.


He spends most of his post summarizing disruptions that have occurred over the past ten years in the video distribution and smartphone businesses, and that are now taking place in transportation. And then tries to make the case that public education needs to undergo a similar transformation.

Sheninger, however, is extremely vague about the process of how it’s supposed to happen.

Disruptive innovation compels educators to go against the flow, challenge the status quo, take on the resistance, and shift our thinking in a more growth-oriented way. Disruptive leadership will lead to disruptive innovation. If we hang on to the same type of thinking we will continue to get the same old results…or worse. This is why digital leadership is so important in a time of rapid change. There is time to go down the path less traveled and create systems of excellence that will be embraced by our learners and in turn better prepare them for their future. Think differently. Learn differently. Disrupt the system as we know it by embracing a business as unusual model. Let’s create a new normal.

I certainly agree that American education could use some disruptive leadership. And many more teachers who are willing to to completely change their practice (ignoring the many restraints placed on them by the state and district, of course). 

What Sheninger doesn’t make clear is how a system as entrenched as public education is disrupted, especially using a model like the mobile phone business. What is that “business as unusual model” you want to create? What is “digital leadership” and how is it different from what we have now? Think differently? Sure; it worked for Apple.

So, what’s the point of this way-too-early rant? I guess my real complaint is that we read way too many essays like this from education big thinkers, all offering many nice phrases, and generating far more questions than answers.