Should Education Learn From Blockbuster Video’s Mistakes?
We’ve turned into an on-demand society. Our schedule is on-demand, our TV is on-demand, and our music is on-demand. Recently, I drove by what used to be my favorite place to go to after college: the Blockbuster Video
store. What exists there now is just an empty shell of a building with boarded up windows and an eviction sticker on the front. So, why is it, that in our on-demand society, that a video check-out store like Blockbuster wouldn’t thrive, much less survive?
The reason is very telling, and one that my profession of public education better pay attention to. As the video rental generation grew older, our priorities of how we use and value our time has changed. The scary thing is, it’s not just that generation that has changed its value of how it spends its time. We are all experiencing this right now. Blockbuster Video, and to the same extent movie theaters, may have given us some form of on-demand entertainment, but it lacked three major features.
1. Time – It takes time out of our day to get in the car and go down the road to the closest store or theater. As you get older, and kids enter the picture, that means we now have another schedule to figure out and work around. That means planning when to go out and who’s going to watch the kids if we leave them behind. Suddenly the perceived “convenience” of choice doesn’t seem like all that big a deal.
2. Reliability – What if the show sells out? What if they don’t have my video in stock? You really start to weigh these risks when you factor in item #1 – time. Should you bother to even take the time if you might not get your expected outcome?
3. Current-ness – This is the last vestige of support for movie theaters, but one that video stores couldn’t hold a candle to. Why am I going to risk my 16 minutes of free time going to a video store to look for an out-of-date movie that might not even be there. While movie theaters can trumpet about the wide-spread new release, their day is coming to an end as well. On-demand services like Direct TV now boast the ability to get a movie a mere month or two after it comes out. It’s predicted that in 2 years, movies will be released for all audiences simultaneously for online audiences as well as those that like to stand in line.
Shocked or saddened by the prospect of movie theater demise? Or maybe this is a trend long coming, especially when you couple a $5.00 soda into our already struggling economy. While their ultimate ending may still be undecided, I for one am reading the signs of a now dead video chain and wondering what this reflects of society. That’s the same society that is currently putting their children into our aging school systems. When will they turn on the long-standing institution of public education in favor of something that works on their schedule, is more reliable, and keeps their kids more up-to-date?
While I still acknowledge the custodial need for a brick and mortar building to house K-12 kids, it’s only a matter of time before that convenience is weighed against other things our society may value to be more important. It’s for those very reasons why I chose to be in the profession I’m in. I’m blessed with being in a position to make a change before we become obsolete. We must become an institution of on-demand learning or else, we might well go the way of the video store. We might have to become more gimicky to draw our audiences with our last few breaths (Come here! Learning in 3D! For a limited time only….) much like the movie theater. The fortunate thing is, it’s a change we are all ready for even if we don’t know it. We just have to be willing to make it together. Otherwise, we might as well be kind and rewind.