The blue-pill strategy won the Covid battle, who won the red war?

Cheers. The UN has just declared; Covid is over. In any case, it is no longer classified as a global pandemic catastrophe. Time to sum up? What have we learned? What happens now?

I myself have spent much of the last year trying to understand these very issues. Been pretty quiet for a while now; have been talking to and meeting people IRL, reading, thinking, instead of updating this blog. What did Covid leave behind? What are the various education actors doing now? How do they interpret what´s ongoing?

As usual, no one can give a good, comprehensive answer to what is happening in this extremely large industry. In fact, to this day, no one can tell you how big the global world of education really is. The world of education is too big, too multifaceted, and partly too diverse, for anyone to ever justifiably say ‘I really know’.

There are certainly lots of different international, and national, analyses already done, from everything from the UN to the EU, country ministries and various industry as well as professional organizations and consulting firms. It is also possible to relatively easy, even for outside observers, to study what a lot of individual actors, such as Harvard, or a high school, or a professional education actor (of those who then did not close down during Covid, quite a few actually did) really do, and have already done, post-Covid. It is even possible to study many of the new educational actors that have now emerged – a lot of new ones, not least digital, of course, emerged during Covid. But; it is still difficult to get a complete overview. The fact that you know something about what is happening in a country, for example, or what is happening with an individual actor, does not necessarily mean that you know what is happening in this industry as a whole. Just because you see a tree, you haven’t seen a forest.

But nevertheless; after all, something can probably dare to be said.

My own impression is that it is relatively quiet, at least not panic. There are at least no insane number of in-depth discussions on fundamental questions such as “what are we really going to look like in, say, 10-20 years from now?” ongoing – other than that attempts are being made here and there.

By far the most common thing I find is universities that are now working on their premises. There really seems to be a lot of talk about premises in this industry right now. You then often either reduce a little the amount of premises you have, both classrooms and office space, even give up some space. So, don’t the students, and employees, return in the same way as before? Or, you convert classrooms into smaller group rooms. Or; you do both of these things, at the same time. And doing things like that can take both time and energy enough.

A manager, no matter where, has no more than 24 hours available per day. So there are always a limited number of issues you can deal with. And say what you want, but these local changes can be perceived as big, and radical, enough. For many universities that are currently reducing their premises, it may even be the first time in a very long time this has even happened. Of course, this also means that the internal resistance to such changes can be large enough for a manager to parry.  Then that working day is over.

In the well-known movie The Matrix, Neo gets to choose between the blue pill and the red pill. With the blue, he will forget everything he has just begun to understand, go back to the world as it was much before. With the red, he gets to face reality. The red pill promises no pretty future for him, rather a strikingly harder one than if he chooses the blue pill. He nevertheless chooses the red. And luckily, as in all good movies, he also wins in the end. The Matrix loses.

Could it be that large parts of the educational world have chosen the blue pill right now?

Where is the Matrix?

There are lots of studies done on the music industry and its change, such as this one. There are also lots of attempts to understand what really happened, and not least try to explain why the major record companies ‘missed the train’ when streaming came. With them, it was quite quiet before file sharing and streaming came. They earned money. Parried some changes that came along the way, for example, took to the CD fairly quickly – despite initial resistance. But otherwise, they chewed on.

However, today, now that the music industry is already fundamentally changed, and we can all clearly see that the role of record companies is now largely different than before streaming, I think most of us could agree that the big problem that record companies faced was to accept that their previous role would no longer remain. They were simply forced to change roles. And to do so, to accept the mere idea of a partly different position of power, was what stood above all in their own way. Instead of devoting themselves to thinking about their new role, and working actively to develop it, they simply chose to try to defend their existing role. This explains why they constantly mostly tried to fend off the changes that kept coming their way – lost customers, lost artists, etc. But now, today, when all these fundamental changes have happened, and record labels finally have accepted their new role; it is rather quiet in the music industry, again. Just with a bit weaker, and smaller, record labels.

Sometimes it’s when it’s quiet that it happens.

-> Share perhaps this post with someone that, like me, seriously care about the future of education.

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