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There’s No Normal to Return To

In a recent edition of his excellent daily blog post, Seth Godin correctly notes that Americans are frustrated with the slow economic recovery and angry with politicians for not making the return to normal happen faster.

However, Godin says normal isn’t coming back. The 80 year run of the industrial revolution, that “brought ever-increasing productivity, and along with it well-paying jobs for an ever-expanding middle class”, is coming to an end.

Some people insist that if we focus on “business fundamentals” and get “back to basics,” all will return. Not so. The promise that you can get paid really well to do precisely what your boss instructs you to do is now a dream, no longer a reality.

It doesn’t take more than a cursory reading of the news over the past couple of decades to know that he’s probably right.

At the same time we in education are also doubling down on the “back to basics” and on teaching kids how to follow someone else’s instructions. Our leaders, both political and business, want us to think that if we just combine greater effort with more standardization that we can recreate the glorious old days where every kid was above average and US test scores topped every other country.

The former, of course, is statistically impossible (only in Lake Wobegon) and the later a myth, but we spend large chunks of money, instructional time, and public discourse trying to make it happen.

So when do we acknowledge that our current education system, built to support that industrial society, also needs to change?


  1. Doug Belshaw

    That’s *certainly* the case in the UK, where Michael Gove is the most reactionary Education Secretary we’ve had for a while. And it also seems like it’s a similar case in Australia with the ‘Literacy Wars’ (I discussed this briefly here.

    It’s also interesting to note that, even from an economist’s point of view, the current western education system is broken beyond repair:

  2. Yemek Tarifleri

    In general people experience their present naively, as it were, without being able to form an estimate of its contents; they have first to put themselves at a distance from it – the present, that is to say, must have become the past – before it can yield points of vantage from which to judge the future and that ofcourse is called “The future of an illusion”.

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