Donald G. Perrin
It is time to re-read Joel Barker (1992) Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future. The economic crisis is having a severe negative impact on education budgets and reduces the opportunities for growth and change. Rather than appraising the situation as “destruction of education and training as we know it”, perhaps it should be considered as an opportunity for paradigm shifts that were imminent, but not possible under the “old” rules. Use the U.S. Automobile industry for comparison.
The automobile industry is controlled by public policy, unions, and business models based on early twentieth century successes in mass production and marketing. It is a transportation device using a reciprocating engine and fossil fuel. This masterpiece of engineering continues to be improved in performance, reliability, safety, and environmental protection. However, it cannot meet 21st century requirements because it depends on fossil fuels and produces unacceptable greenhouse gases. Vested interest in the current technology led to paradigm paralysis so that foreign auto makers are a decade ahead in development of hybrid and electric cars that use renewable, non-polluting, energy resources.
The United States, once a leader, is also lagging behind other nations in its educational programs, especially the teaching of mathematics, science, and engineering. The paradigm for group instruction came out of the industrial revolution in the 19th century; and “objective” methods of testing were born at the beginning of the 20th century. The world has seen vast changes, yet public education if frozen in the old paradigm.
James Finn (1962) stated:
Education, as a sector of national life, has, for the most part, been cut off from the technological advances enjoyed by industry, business, the military establishment, etc. The American educational enterprise exists out of technological balance with great sectors of society. . . . As Dr. George Gerbner says: “the public school system is the last stronghold of folk culture in America.”
Almost 50 years later, the observations that follow suggest this assertion has not changed.
Although elements of the new paradigm for education are still under development, distance learning has demonstrated many aspects of the new paradigm to be effective:
As Joel Barker points out, in times of turmoil, people are much more likely to consider change. Like the automobile industry, U.S. Education is dealing with a paradigm shift it does not fully understand. We are faced with diminishing resources and increased demands. We need to use resources from theAmerican Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009 to push our research and development agenda and adopt a paradigm that is responsive to our educational and societal needs.
|January 2009 Index|