Push Back the Outside of the Envelope 1

There was a demon that lived in the air.

They said whoever challenged him would die.

Their controls would freeze up. Their planes would buffet wildly.

And they would disintegrate.

The demon lived at Mach One on the meter. 750 miles an hour, where the air could no longer move out of the way.

He lived behind a barrier through which they said no man could ever pass.

– opening narration from The Right Stuff

The first seven minutes of the film: (removed from YouTube) Another, edited version:

The metaphor of “pushing back the outside of the envelope,” as referenced here in the tangible attempts of breaking the sound barrier, has been a touchstone for me since I first saw this film in the early 1980s. Coupled with a reluctance to ever be satisfied with the Status Quo, the notion of continually working to advance methods and practice to support improvement in learning remains a prime motivator for me to this day.

TheRightStuff If you have never seen Philip Kaufman’s “The Right Stuff,” I wholeheartedly recommend it. Based on the bestseller by Tom Wolfe, not only does it paint a truly heroic picture of the history of the flights of the early test pilots and Mercury 7 astronauts, it skillfully blends the work of many fine actors in both leading and cameo roles together with historic archival footage to produce in an incredibly entertaining epic. (8 Oscar nominations, 4 wins.)

Wikipedia entry on the Flight Envelope

Wikipedia entry on idiom Pushing the Envelope

Where did the phrase pushing the envelope originate?

  • Is striving to “push the envelope” a component of your professional practice?
  • How important is this metaphor in your context?

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One thought on “Push Back the Outside of the Envelope

  • dougpete

    “Pushing the envelope” is how people in education spend half their lives, I suspect. With constantly changing of curriculum, changing of students, and if you use technology, we know that’s changing, you can’t avoid it. I know that there are times when people just wish that the world would hold still for a moment so that we can focus on the envelope.