Education and the Future to be Created

Let’s imagine that you and I were given the task of developing a comprehensive strategy for educating the next generation. Our assignment is simple: imagine a framework by which young adults absorb the vision, knowledge, and skills necessary to responsibly build upon our progress and cultural prosperity.

We sit down with a whiteboard and start developing our ideas. Every concept is tabled, considered, and questioned.
What future could we imagine? Possibilities! I’m not sure what we might come up with, but I seriously doubt we suggest the following model:

  • It is hereby recommended that we establish institutions on especially high-value urban acreage. Upon this land shall be built numerous stately and notably inefficient or expensively retro-fitted buildings.
  • Inside these buildings, students will sit and listen to someone talk for several hours at time. Pupils will occasionally be quizzed in order to examine their retention of the talking person’s presentation, and the sum of these tests will be tabulated to determine the student’s competency and eligibility for a degree.
  • To access the education services of this institution, many students will wearily assume an exorbitant debt, on the assumption there are enough peers in their cohort who are not acquiring degrees as to overwhelm any given sector with an overabundance of qualified applicants, thus potentially nullifying their investment in tuition.
  • To remain competitive with other educational institutions, our institution will continue to raise enrollment in degree programs until such a time as the supply of degreed individuals supersedes the growth of the respective sectors. However, national concerns of global competitiveness will likely be adequate incentive for the government to partially subsidize the cost inflation required to maintain this projected growth curve, even in spite of the parallel and concurrent decline in demand for graduates.
  • This model is guaranteed to be fiscally viable as long as the majority of private, public, and non-profit employers continue formally legislating that the primary determinant and nonnegotiable marker of a job applicant’s calibre is their aptitude at completing exams — above their character, personality, creativity, or other innate talents.

Let’s return to our original mandate: imagine a framework by which young adults absorb the vision, knowledge, and skills necessary to responsibly build upon our progress and cultural prosperity.… How do we do this in today’s world? Just look at all the new variables: virtual campuses, massive online open courses, global economic uncertainty, mobile technology, the list is potentially endless. Nobody, absolutely nobody, knows how the evolution of formal learning is going to pan out.

But one thing is fairly certain: if we were going to reinvent education from the ground up today, it would probably not look anything like the status quo.

The future is up for the creating, kids.