Lately I find myself pondering our educational system – OFTEN. I am struck by the idiosyncrasies inherent in the system as well as the mixed messages society is giving about the value of education. This has caused me to ask myself MANY questions…. such as:
- Is education, in its current form, really valuable?
- Are we REALLY preparing our children today to inherit tomorrow’s world?
- Are we REALLY providing our students with the skills that they need to survive in this world?
- When we push higher education, is it REALLY in the best interest of every student?
I will break down some of my thoughts.
1. Is education, in its current form, really valuable? Many of us have seen the talk by Sir Ken Robinson who discussed the fact that schools kill creativity and seem to have it all wrong. He often argues that our schools, designed to educate students for the industrial age, have completely missed the mark in our current technological age. I find that I often get very frustrated when I hear Sir Robinson speak. Why? I actually agree with most of what he has to say. My frustration is that he seems to point out all the problems and I am struggling to understand what the solution may be. Yes, the first step is for us to be willing to acknowledge that there may be something radically wrong with our educational system, with the way we educate our students, with what we choose to believe is important…. but WHAT are we going to do about it? That is the challenge to educators today.
2. Are we REALLY preparing our children today to inherit tomorrow’s world? From what I understand, the career path my daughters will most likely be on has not even been invented yet. How can I prepare my girls for a career that does not yet exist? I have my own personal philosophy in this area. As we do not know what they will inherit and the job market is becoming an ever-fluid one (gone are the days that a person works in one place/ location until retirement), we need to prepare them with two critical skills: creativity and adaptability. Without these abilities, they are doomed in the job market of tomorrow.
3. Are we REALLY providing our students with the skills they need to survive in this world? I am not sure we are. Our educational system has become more and more academic, particularly in high school – and I am beginning to question this move. How many individuals, even those who have masters and doctorate degrees, use calculus on a daily basis? monthly? yearly? How many have used calculus since they graduated high school? Does one need calculus if they are not going into career fields that require higher mathematical skills? I would argue that my high school time might have been better spent in auto mechanics, typing, or home economics. These programs have been cut from so many schools – they are thought of as “less than” the courses that are necessary to gain entrance into top universities. Yet, they teach valuable skills that we would use on a frequent basis. Are our universities also focusing on the wrong requirements for admissions? Are they so focused on academics and community service that they are missing the need for students to learn how to cook and repair their automobiles?
4. When we push higher education, is it REALLY in the best interest of every student? I have asked before, and I will ask again – Is a UCLA graduate with over $100,000 in debt for a liberal arts degree who delivers pizza really better off than a 20-year-old high school graduate with no debt who has delivered pizza for two years solid and has some money saved? I would also ask “why is it less prestigious for children to go to trade schools?” I know that if my daughters choose to become auto mechanics they will have a good, stable career path ahead of them. If they head into a liberal arts college, they will compete in a saturated job market for mediocre entry-level positions while trying to pay off a mountain of debt. Recently my oldest has started talking about wanting to be a hairdresser. At first I was taken back, I wanted all my children to go to college, get a degree, etc. When I took a step back and thought of my daughter and her interests and what may be best for her I realized she wants to go into a respectable career that pays very well and provides her with a solid career field that will never disappear – it is a great choice. And she can enter with training that costs considerably less than a liberal arts degree and will be making money much sooner than a student who now needs a master’s degree to gain an entry-level position.
Food for thought…. so, what do you think? Do you wish you had auto mechanics instead of calculus? Is your psychics or chemistry class of use to you in your life, or would typing or home economics been more valuable? Do you agree that we are focusing on the wrong things in education today? If so, what are the right things? Are we giving our children what they truly need to make it in the world they will inherit tomorrow?
Today, 274 days ’til 40, I continue to pursue answers to the tough questions regarding education today. I believe that part of the solution is to continually re-evaluate and ask ourselves if we are giving our children, our future, what they need. Together we need to figure this out.