The Future of Education is The Future of Work
The year is 2060, one of my grandchildren turns to the other:
“Did you know that Grandma had to spend 20 years in a building where they showed her presentations about the way the world works before she was allowed to participate in it?”
When we accept the fact that most of what involves the standard transfer of goods, services and even ideas will be outperformed by a robot, we are left with a world where our competitive advantage will be the creation of new things and our ability to adapt to these new things.
Unfortunately, “new things” are not a public education system strong suit.
The most direct evidence I have are the past 3 years I’ve spent attending Tuesday lunches at a Pittsburgh middle school to work with my mentee.
It’s astounding how familiar everything feels despite being many miles and almost 15 years removed from my own experience. Locker pod gossip, permission slips to use the bathroom, horrific school lunch smells, mind-numbing math worksheets, and the sometimes stressful, sometimes promising sound of a school bell.
Middle school has stood still, while the pace of change around the world has accelerated.
Sure, this is normal middle school angst and one tiny anecdote in a multifaceted education system. Yes, there are so many schools, teachers, startups, students, and non-profits innovating in the space.
Still, I fear our education system is not given enough focus when discussing the future of work. The new workforce depends on people with high levels of creativity, emotional intelligence, and imagination. These innate skills abound in toddlers and are subsequently dulled by society in the structure of school.
How to prepare the future workforce? Certainly not by shuffling them from one class to the next hoping they absorb ‘useful’ facts that can be googled all the time.
4 ways to shake things up?
- Combining scientific discovery + wellness + things kids love. Think mushroom cultivation, acoustic instrument engineering, beer chemistry, fossil digging.
- Out mental physical, and spiritual well-being are intimately connected and in CRISIS
- The natural world needs more scientists exploring and healing it
- The physical realms (outdoor adventure, wellness, culinary) are relatively AI future-proof
2. A year of National Service in exchange for merit-based college scholarships.
- Bright minds solving real challenges — habitat loss, cyber attacks, traffic patterns…minds that might want to keep solving those problems post-grad.
- A year to reflect on “What do I want out of the next 4 years?” before specializing
- Students who take gap years graduate with higher GPAs even after controlling for demographics, test scores and entering grades.
3. Foreign language fluency in exchange for travel incentives.
“But Google translate will be ubiquitous…”
- Conveying information is not the point — language is the best tool for cultural understanding from the way sentences are structured to how jokes are told.
- Digital workforce will be able to live anywhere! Increase student’s travel savvy and ability to relate to new people
- Global mindset will be critical for cooperation on increasingly interconnected issues.
4. Grades should be exchanged for Proof-of-Skills
- Blockchain has pushed our economy in the important direction of verification and objectivity
- Learning for a test incentivizes memorization rather than adding a skill to your permanent repertoire
- Skills can be dictated by the actual needs of the market rather than theoretical musings of an educational board