Apr 9, 2012

Changing the Conversation: Playing Catch Up

Traveling throughout the nation, speaking at conferences, conducting research, and consulting with clients provides a very interesting backdrop to observe trends.  Our Ten Trends series was birthed from this sort of cultural observation.  Today, though, I want to make note of another trend that I am seeing around the nation.  
In the rush to become more globally competitive, relevant to today, and sustainable in our marketplace context, it seems that most American schools and colleges are battling hard in the unfortunate game of “playing catch up.”  Whether it be technology, classroom teaching approaches, or distribution and pricing models, most of the conversation appears to be about bringing schools or colleges up to speed to a new normal in education.  The game seems to be scored by which school or college can be the first to bring about internal change in order to be the school they should be today.  
I recognize the prevailing model for many of the things we have built our educational system on is over 50 years old.  Surely this means that we need to remove old thinking and replace it with new, more innovative thinking.  But, in the process, I think we are missing the point.  Is our goal to “catch up” to a changing time, or is to be the lead forces in the world of educational revitalization?  America has always been a pioneering force in various industries.  Are we simply trying to bring our programs up to par or return to a global leadership role in education?
It seems to me that we need to change the conversation.  We need to stop being reactive to where the world has moved and proactive to where the world is going.  We need to think about how to reengineer our programs in a way that will rightfully return our independent schools and colleges into case studies for innovation.  Most importantly, we need to stop playing catch up.