The Myth of History

Ask most people in this country to free associate with “Fourth of July” and they’ll probably respond with stuff like fireworks, bar-b-que, parades, and overly-militaristic displays.

Because, as expressed by the great philosopher David Letterman, Independence Day “is the time of year when Americans indulge in their two favorite pastimes: drinkin’ and blowin’ stuff up.”

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A Lesson From History

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Throwing a little bit of history in here, this month marks an interesting point in American history, the 100th anniversary of the start of Prohibition. The Eighteenth Amendment, prohibiting the “manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors” within the United States, was ratified on January 16, 1919 and went into effect one year later.

Of course, Prohibition didn’t last long, only until 1933 when the “The Noble Experiment” was repealed. Continue reading

Technology Changes Everything. Or Nothing.

This from a recent segment of the BBC World Service podcast, 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy, caught my attention.

Two economists… published research showing that many companies had invested in computers for little or no reward, but others had reaped big benefits. What explained the difference was whether the companies had been willing to reorganize to take advantage of what computers had to offer.

You couldn’t just take your old systems and add better computers. You needed to do things differently.

The program1 is about how the technology of electricity failed to improved businesses who remained organized around steam, in the same way that computers failed to improve businesses who remained organized around manual practices.

With that in mind, go back to that first paragraph of the pull quote and replace “companies” with “schools”, minus the published research part.

Over the past twenty years or so, many, if not most, schools simply added computers to the old systems. And then wondered why the promised revolution never appeared. It’s still happening today.

The presenter ends the podcast with a few lines to consider the next time you hear or read about some service, app, or system someone claims will “revolutionize” learning.

The thing about a revolutionary technology is that it changes everything. That’s why we call it revolutionary. And changing everything takes time. And imagination. And courage. And, sometimes, just a lot of hard work.

Instead of just accepting the statement as fact, dig deeper and look for that imagination, courage, and hard work required to produce genuine change.