The current economic crisis has introduced many Americans and nearly all of our public school districts to a New Normal — the idea of having to do more with less. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke about this in 2010, at which point the idea was already getting old. So, when does the New Normal just become normal?
We have seen plenty of new ideas come and go without making much lasting impact. So why should this be any different?
In the ‘60s, this country was introduced to “New Math” — a program for grade-schoolers that was born largely out of the American reaction to the successful launch of Sputnik. The theory was that our math education was fundamentally wrong and had to be changed to compete with future generations of Soviet scientists. In reality, however, it was a terrible idea. Kids were learning about base 8 and base 6 number systems with no understanding of their real-life applications. New Math eventually went away, and teaching went back to traditional methods.
The ‘80s saw the introduction of New Coke. The New Coke formula was released as a response to major loss of market share due to competition from Pepsi-Cola. As it turned out, New Coke was tremendously unpopular and The Coca-Cola Company ended up reformulating again — essentially reverting back to the original recipe — and releasing Coca-Cola Classic.
So is that where we’re headed? Is operating efficiently just a passing fad?
Many in the private sector are realizing levels of efficiency previously thought impossible and will likely be reluctant to inflate their teams again, even when profits return. Similarly, as funding returns to our schools, administrators will be slow to loosen budgets, continuing to spend taxpayer dollars judiciously.
For now, it appears the New Normal is here to stay. If history is any indication, however, it may just be a matter of time before we revert to our old ways.