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You know how many years separated the Wright brothers from the Apollo 11 moon landing?

When I was in college, a friend of mine blew my mind when he said this: “You’re a basketball fan right? Check it out, I have a new program on my computer that can tell you what the score of any game is while the game is still going on.”

This, of course, was impossible. In 1991, the only way to find out the score of a game was to pick up a copy of USA Today the next morning. Then, he showed me the halftime score of the Knicks vs. 76ers game. I couldn’t believe it. It was a new service called “Prodigy,” (which eventually lost out to AOL) and my friend said it was going to change everything. That was less than 20 years ago.

Just last week, a student showed me an app on his cell phone that can take a photograph of a book in my office and, with one click, send me to the Amazon.com page where I can buy another copy of it and have it shipped to my house in 24 hours.

* * *

You know how many years separated the Wright Brothers from the Apollo 11 moon landing? 66 years. Life moves pretty fast.

* * *

I just read this New York Times interview with Geoff Vuleta, the C.E.O. of New York-based consulting firm Fahrenheit 212. This is what he said about managing employees:

“I try to uncover what people are really good at doing and then give them a hell of a lot of that to do. I really, truly believe in that. I am the sort of person who’s never really believed in obsessing over trying to get people to do things that they are no good at anyway.”

On hiring new people:

“We’re looking for an inquisitive, restless mind and eclectic interests. And you’ve got to prove restlessness rather than saying restlessness. Prove to me that restlessness in a breadth of ways. If you have narrow interests, you’re probably not going to be right.

“And the other thing is, are they the sort of person who thinks that being right is important? You don’t have time to be right where we are. We’re developing conceptual things. We’re inventing things that don’t yet exist. We’re working with enormously complex things all the time. And if you’re obsessed with being right, you won’t get there.

“We’re in a business where you have to make continual leaps of faith about things. So prove to me that being great is important, not that being right is important.”

* * *

Life moves pretty fast. The economy of the 21st century is looking for people who can thrive in an environment of rapid change. Yet, we send our kids to the same kinds of schools that were established before the age of Orville and Wilbur Wright.

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2 thoughts on “You know how many years separated the Wright brothers from the Apollo 11 moon landing?

  1. I did a project several years ago on the Wright Brothers. One of the pictures I found showed one of the Wright Brothers in a meeting with the group who eventually formed NASA. Think about the changes that took place in the lives of those men. And then think about all the changes that will take place in the lives of the students we are educating today. It can be a bit overwhelming.
    You last sentence really stands out to me. That is a call for reform!

    Posted by Melissa | November 24, 2010, 6:49 am
  2. This is a great post, and thank you for calling out the Geoff Vuleta interview. An author I admire very much, Clive Harber (wrote Schooling As Violence, 2004) likens schools of today to 19th century workhouses. Someday, our grandchildren will look back at them and wonder why we allowed children to enter them. Let’s hope life moves fast on this.

    Posted by Kirsten Olson | December 3, 2010, 4:16 pm

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