Big Tank Battles and Schools of the Future

imagesThe synergistic connections just keep flying in!  My friend Glyn Cowlishaw (@PDSHead), head of Providence Day School in Charlotte just Tweeted a link to a BBC article on the great Kursk tank battle 70 years ago involving 9,000 German and Soviet tanks.  Glyn asked “Will there ever be another large scale tank battle?”  My response: “I doubt it; you can buy a drone online for $35 and shoot at tanks with cheap laser-aimed rockets from over the horizon.” Hard to see how using multi-million dollar tanks to slug it out will ever make sense again.

The parallel to education, evolution, and mutation hit me within seconds.  Tanks are big, relatively slow, incredibly expensive to design, update, build, and operate.  They were the absolute game changer of warfare 70 years ago, but now can easily be defeated by vastly superior technology, at least when that technology is used with skill.  This does not mean that tanks will suddenly disappear from our arsenal; they have use in some situations, and may ALWAYS have use in some situations.  But they will never again define the battlefield state-of-the-art.

Schools are big, relatively slow to adapt to changes in the marketplace, expensive to design, update, build, and operate.  Vastly cheaper technology can do much of what “schools” do, and we all know it, as I mentioned in my post earlier today.

Smart military planners are, somewhere, this very minute, thinking about how tanks can best be used, and what will replace them in the threat landscape of the future. What do big tanks do so well that they cannot be replaced by $35 drones and shoulder-fired rockets? Smart educational planners need to be doing the same thinking.  What do schools do so well that they cannot be replaced by online courses, MOOCS, and videos?

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