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We Need To Educate Kids For The Future, Not The Past

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Our education system was designed for the 20th century. It is mostly focused on teaching kids how to retain information and manipulate numbers. It regularly tests these abilities and, if you do well, you are promised to get into a good college, have a successful career and live a happy, prosperous life.

Unfortunately, those promises have become empty. Today, when we all carry around supercomputers in our pocket, tasks like remembering facts and doing long division have largely been automated. The truth is, there is little that we learned in school that can’t now be handled with a quick Google search and an Excel spreadsheet.

Clearly, we need to rethink education. Our kids will face a https://www.crossroadsfeedandseed.com/ much different world than we live in now. In fact, a study at Oxford concluded that nearly half of the jobs that exist today will be automated in the next 20 years. To prepare for the future, we need to replace our regimented education system with one that fosters skills like teamwork, communication and exploration.

Working In A Team

Traditionally, schoolwork has been based on individual accomplishment. You’re supposed to study at home, come in prepared and take your test without help. If you look at your friend’s paper, it’s called cheating and you get in a lot of trouble for it. We’re taught to be accountable for achievements on our own merits.

Yet consider how the nature of work has changed, even in highly technical fields. In 1920, most scientific papers were written by sole authors, but by 1950 that had changed and co-authorship became the norm. Today, the average paper has four times as many authors as it did then and the work being done is far more interdisciplinary and done at greater distances than in the past.

Communicating Effectively

In recent years a lot of emphasis has been put on the need for stronger STEM education to compete in an ever more technological world. However, there is increasing evidence that the STEM shortage is a myth and, as Fareed Zakaria points out in his book, In Defense of a Liberal Education, what we most need to improve is communication skills.

To understand why, think about an advanced technology like IBM’s Watson, which is being applied to fields as diverse as medicine, finance and even music. That takes more than just technical skill, but requires computer scientists to work effectively with experts in a wide variety of fields.

professionals in the future than they are today.

Learning Patterns Rather Than Numbers

Of the “three R’s” that we learned in school, arithmetic was generally the most dreaded. Multiplication tables, long division and deceptively constructed word problems have been the bane of every young student’s existence. In my day, at least, the utility was clear, but now children can rightly ask “why can’t I use the calculator on my phone?

Clearly, in our increasingly data driven age, mathematical skills are more important than ever. Yet they are not the same ones we learned in school. It’s not so important to be able to count and multiply things — those tasks are largely automated today — but it’s imperative to be able to ascribe meaning from data.

Valdis Krebs of Orgnet explains that “Schools are still stuck on teaching 20th century math for building things rather than 21st century math for understanding things” and suggests that curriculums focus less on the mathematics of engineering (e.g. algebra and calculus) and more on the mathematics of patterns (e.g. set theory, graph theory, etc.).

Focus On Exploring Things Rather Than Knowing Things

Take a look at any basic curriculum and there are lists of things that kids are supposed to know by the end of the course. Dates of historical events, mathematical formulas, the name of specific biological structures or whatever. Yet today, knowledge is a moving target. Much of the information in textbooks today will be obsolete by the time our kids start their careers.

Clearly, the notion that education will give you knowledge that will prepare you for an entire career is vastly outdated. Today we need to prepare our kids for a world that we don’t really understand yet. How can we possibly make good judgments about what information they need to know?

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