War historians have pointed out that for most of human existence war did not change much - not in its techniques,
nor equipment. Alexander’s defeat of the Persians in 329 BC may not have looked dramatically different to the Mongol’s invasions of China 1218 CE. In fact, Napoleon’s victory of the Third Coalition in 1805 would have been on an eerily similar battlefield (fancy French uniforms aside). Armies lining up, archers or riflemen ready, cavalry charge – have at it!
Not until the advent of heavy artillery around the Franco Prussian War (1870) did things start to change. Even World War One is littered with accounts of old, tried and tested strategies being torn down in the face on new technology in the form of machine guns and heavy artillery. Military commanders in 1914 could not conceive how war was going to change before the end of the war in 1918, let alone how it would look another 100 years later.
Likewise, as ancient storytellers passed down Homer’s Odyssey through verse and song, on parchments and in etchings, they could never have envisioned a communication system such as the internet. Or a small plastic disc that can store 360 TB of information and last billions of years. Consider how quickly technology has advanced since the first microchip in 1959. Who could have predicted how it would impact and change our lives?
Many believe we have reached a technological tipping point in human history, where the next generation of devices will so dramatically change the nature of of our lives that we can’t possibly predict the outcomes: trans-humanism, artificial intelligence, space travel.
Why then, do some of us insist that children learn as if they are living in the past? As if there was a point in history when education, ‘Had it right.’ Learn from the past, yes. Wind back the clock and as if nothing has changed? Why? Because we’re safe in the knowledge that we did it before? Or because we worry that we wont be able to help our kids with their homework?
If you walk into a classroom and it reminds you of your own education – is that a good thing?
Photo credit (text added): tangi berton CC2.0