Most of you are too young to remember Joe Willie Namath. The Alabama standout quarterback and all-too-brief “greatest ever” leader of the NY Jets used to have a saying, “I can’t wait till tomorrow, cause I get better looking every day.” That was also the title of his best-selling autobiography. You just can’t buy that kind of brashness. He also famously said, “I like my girl’s blond and my Johnnie Walker Red.” Again, aside from the blatant sexism of his day, you can’t fully appreciate that statement unless you realize that even though Joe had a pocketful of cash, he chose the distiller’s entry-level, not aged enough, beginner’s swill. And bragged about it!
Brash? Perhaps uncomfortably so. But that kind of thinking is something that is long forgotten, and sorely needed today.
Where are you, Joe? We need your spirit. Before the knees went. While you were still modeling pantyhose on TV. That Joe.
Or more specifically, education needs you. It is 1967. Our education companies are the American Football League. And education is the Superbowl. As the CEO of your education company, you are the quarterback, and the game is on the line. You are playing the National Football League’s Baltimore Colts. In education, they represent, ‘the way we have always done it.’ On the line is an education system that is spiraling, even though it has wonderful, dedicated people. But the fact is, education has been slow to adapt, slow to change, and slow to serve the students it was created to serve.
But you, the education companies, are Joe Willie Namath with the long hair and still-working knees. And nothing can stop you. Not the teacher shortage, nor student attrition. Not even a now-its-over, oops, now-its-not pandemic with more variants than Carter has liver pills.
Years from now, when we are looking back at this post-COVID education Superbowl, you and your ilk will be remembered as the all-too-brash EdTech companies that took the ball across the goal line. It is your ideas. It is your companies that are transforming education. In many instances, your innovations have made learning better, even in times when we didn’t know we needed to be better.
I read a statistic years ago that stated most successful education companies were started by an educator who had an idea for a better way to do things. Even though most education companies, like most companies in general, are now technology companies, I believe there is still a great deal of truth to that.
Successful companies solve problems. Even problems the clients didn’t know they had. What better way to understand and then solve a problem than coming from the belly of the beast. And we are so fortunate in education, because when it comes to problems, we have some humdingers these days.
It is one of those magical times in history, a crossroads if you will. A time when we can either zig or zag. Zig, and we all look for that road back to Normal, where we think it is okay for 35 percent of kids to perform at something mysteriously known as “grade level,” and we celebrate graduating 4 out of 5 kids, who are marginally literate and can do a bit of mathematics when pressed, but can’t figure a 15 percent tip in their heads.
Zag, and we see just how far down the rabbit hole goes (with apologies to The Wachowskis). We’ll enter a time when cognitive training helps every boy and girl reach their true potential, when teachers instruct and command AI, and use it to augment their very superior learning and teaching skills, using their humanity to connect with learners and help them understand the personal relevance of what they are learning. When education catches and then surpasses the logistical glory of an Amazon or Uber, and we understand that Hybrid Logistics allows the education world to finally use and maximize their assets – all of them.
Yes, it is one of those magical times. It is ancient Athens and Socrates is asking questions of Plato. It is 1445 and Johannes Gutenberg is cranking out pages on his printing press. It is the early 1600s and Galileo Galilei is looking through his telescope. It is 1928 and Alexander Fleming is noticing a crazy little bread mold that kills bacteria. It is the 1970s and scientists are putting together the communication protocols for the Internet. It is 2022, and as the world recovers from a global health scare, a small group of under 10,000 education companies are working together to completely modernize education, changing the world’s economics forever and allowing the kind of progress only dreamed about in previous eras.
It is 500 years later, and names like Cauthen, Grubbs and Iskander, Gerardo, Rectanus and Stoffer are remembered as names involved in the great “EdTech Reformation,” a time when organizations like the Learning Leadership Society and small but enlightened companies reimagined the education of our young and made all that we now have possible.
So, lace up the shoes. Put on the pads. Grab your helmet. And trot out on the field of education.
It is all up to you now, Joe.
About the author
Charles Sosnik is an education journalist and editor and serves as Editor in Chief at the Learning Counsel. An EP3 Education Fellow, he uses his deep roots in the education community to add context to the education narrative. Charles is a frequent writer and columnist for some of the most influential media in education, including the Learning Counsel, EdNews Daily, EdTech Digest and edCircuit. Unabashedly Southern, Charles likes to say he is an editor by trade and Southern by the Grace of God.