June 8, 2023
As the cliché goes, “It’s not you, it’s me.” In this sense, education (you) is not what today’s students (me) need. What do I mean by this? It is time to talk about the challenges facing education today with regard to misalignment between what schools from 9-12 through higher education are teaching and what today’s students, and tomorrow’s adults, need. In one sense, I have to ask, are we being honest with our young people regarding education? Or, are we spinning a myth from the past that has lost its relevance? Worse yet, are we selling them a product in the form of higher education that has lost value? Are we having conversations with our students about multiple pathways to good-paying careers? Hey education, we need to talk.
History and economics are the driving factors in our educational system. From the creation of public schools in the late 19th century to the adoption of and continued use of the Carnegie Credit Hour, to the increasingly common question “Is college worth it?”, few people are able to see through the marketing and rhetoric and come to any logical conclusion. Our current view of the educational pipeline is driven by both a business model and a misplaced belief in a singular path to a “successful” life. To rectify the second, the “business” of education must be both acknowledged and forced to change. Unlike other nations, our education systems are a blended model of local public, non-profit, and for-profit. A national system does not exist. At the very center of this is the reality that even in the public and non-profit education sectors, money is the driver via taxes in the first and tuition in the second. This system, set up in the industrial era, served a purpose at a certain time but has not evolved with the rest of society, the economy, or culture and is thus missing the mark at great cost to our children and the future economy.
What is school for? What knowledge is necessary versus what knowledge is simply outdated and redundant? How are we defining knowledge? What do students need to know for the emerging future, and to be clear, a future that is hard to envision? How can we decouple the business of education from the need for knowledge? Tough questions to be sure, but ones that are going to be answered…