Written by Alex Berger
This afternoon I was listening to NPR: All Things Considered coverage of the teacher strike in Chicago and I noticed something missing. The story covered the issues at hand (pay cuts and a new method for evaluating teacher performance), the two sides of the debate (The mayor of chicago and the teachers union), and the possible political implications for Obama (Chicago being his hometown and all) but completely failed to get any input from those affected most: the students.
This is not a one-time oversight. It is part of a larger problem in the way education is managed in America,. Education is seen as a path for stodgy academics to design, and kids to follow without question. While this may have worked to fill jobs of the past, today many teachers haven’t even heard of the jobs many middle-schoolers will be doing when they graduate. In a report titled “The Shape of Jobs to Come” Fast Future, an organization dedicated to the Identification and analysis of future trends, “highlighted examples of the kinds of jobs, careers and professions that could result from advances in science and technology in the period from 2010 to 2030”. A few of the jobs they found are likely going to materializeas key professions are Nano Medic, Bodypart Maker, and Memory Augmentation Specialist. These aren’t jobs you can learn about in school today. There are already 3 million US jobs that can’t be filled because there aren’t enough people possessing the skills necessary to do them. This is a massive failing of the education system and that gap will only widen if our schools stay stuck in a 20’th century paradigm.
Education should be about empowering students to adapt and innovate in an ever changing world, not memorizing terms or formulas for a test. Recently I came across a catchy business event titled “Ideas Are Worthless” and I think the same could be applied to education.
Information is worthless, or at least highly overrated. There is so much raw information in the world today, spending middle and high school memorizing random snippets of it seems incredibly useless for most students. While collecting information in their heads may be great for academics, the majority of students need to learn how to interpret the world around them, solve problems, think critically and independently, communicate effectively, and it definitely wouldn’t hurt if they knew how to program a computer.
While I don’t believe that middle school teachers need to be preparing their students to be nano medics (although that sounds really cool) it is time we realize that our current education model is clunky, slow, inefficient, and completely removed from reality. The future is here, and we are not ready.