Why Disruptive Innovation Always Originates Outside the Establishment

Sometimes, I ask myself, “Why do I read the commentaries in the education trade magazines?”  They’re nearly always authored by people who are certainly not intellectually challenged; rather, they are a prisoner of the “system.”  They have been institutionalized, spending their entire career inside the establishment and bound by the way that things have always been done.

This leads me to my rebuttal of the week.  This commentary really hit a nerve.  It was written by the former General Counsel of the Los Angeles Unified School District.  The title of the piece was “Districts’ Financial Crisis Is Not The Time To Talk Reform.” He states, “In the real world, the politics of layoffs trumped reform every time.” He further adds, “And een if we kept talking about reform, we were looking over our shoulders at Sacramento, doubting whether it was worth having the discussion at all since we did not know if we would have money to pay for our better ideas.”

This logic assumes that whenever a business is facing a budget gap, they assume that reform goes out the window.  This is 20th century thinking at its finest!  With many of the ideas contemplated around integrating technology-driven products into the classroom, there would likely be a net REDUCTION in expenditures per pupil.  The schools just have to have the courage to break the textbook publisher monopoly and consider e-learning and other technology-driven solutions.

So when Mr. Kwalwasser states, “The first casualty of budget instability then is the very innovation and transformation that Eric Hanushek (Hoover Institution) – and virtually everyone else in this country – wants,” he is taking the position of the establishment.  He is starting from the position of “we can’t” instead of “we can.”  Thisi is why we need our administrators to start being trained to be smart businessmen, while not losing their senstivity for the stakeholders that matter:  the teachers, students and parents.

So to all you Education trade publications out there, please start adding some external points of view to your commentaries!  You might be surprised at what it will do to not only your readership, but also to the movement surrounding successful education reform policies.

I hope I’m not the only one enraged by this op-ed piece.  Just because folks like Mr. Hanushek may not have spent countless hours being a school administrator, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have valid “out-of-the-box” ideas to drive innovation.  The author has made clear the same point of view I hear from so many long-time educators:  that you can’t understand what truly occurs because you don’t have the requisite experience.  Once we eliminate this type of thinking, then the real education reform work can commence.

Our country’s future competitiveness depends on it.

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