Most of what passes for education in America today is grounded in the values and workforce needs of the Industrial Revolution. Preparing the next generation for the assembly line was coupled with the desire to purposefully cripple creativity – thus making one’s factory employees more malleable. Sir Ken Robinson, internationally-recognized speaker on the field of education, puts it this way:
So, if Robinson is correct, then whither shall we go? Craig D. Jerald of the Center for Public Education suggests the following:
As a result of these forces, three kinds of learning are becoming increasingly important if not essential for students to succeed in work and life:
1) Traditional academic knowledge and skills. The belief that students will no longer need to learn the academic content traditionally taught in the school curriculum is false. Students will need strong math and English skills to succeed in work and life, for example. A strong academic foundation also is essential for success in postsecondary education and training, which itself is increasingly necessary for anyone who wants to earn a middle class wage.
2) Real world application, or “applied literacies.” Students will need not just knowledge but also “literacy”—the ability to apply their learning to meet real-world challenges. That applies to all subjects, including English, math, science, and social studies.
3) Broader competencies. Students who develop an even broader set of competencies will be at an increasing advantage in work and life. Based on employer surveys and other evidence, the most important seem to be:
- The ability solve new problems and think critically;
- Strong interpersonal skills necessary for communication and collaboration;
- Creativity and intellectual flexibility; and
- Self sufficiency, including the ability to learn new things when necessary.
We need to prepare our students for the world that will be, not the world that is! That begins with recognizing the Digital Revolution for what it is – the biggest communications paradigm shift since the Gutenberg printing press. To truly reform education in America, it will take an equally large paradigm shift by the next generation of school administrators. Are we prepared to take the next step? Or will we remain mired in the failed practices of the past?