Education For Tomorrow

Educating for Constraints

Children having access to seemingly endless resources do not learn to make do with or work around restrictions, but instead learn to make sure they get the resources they want. They learn to demand and make a fuss, putting their parent or teacher in a quandary: should they spend time to educate the child or resolve the situation quickly by giving them what they want? Children learn to be ‘resourceful’ in shrewd ways or at the expense of others or even using unethical means. They are often rewarded for this ‘resourcefulness’, especially if the result is good, but as they grow their list of demands keeps increasing and they become even more unreasonable leading to all sides becoming frustrated.

Educating for Teamwork

Our education system focuses on individual learning. Group learning is, in our system, hard to implement and monitor, though in the working world, people work together all the time, often with difficulty. After passing through our education system, people entering the workforce do not know how to work together. The working world is filled with conversation of dysfunctional teams and often the first training skill taught to new employees is about becoming a better team player. Business magazines churn out articles on teamwork and consultants abound in jumpstarting teamwork in the corporate sector. Instead of expecting people to learn to work in teams as adults, shouldn’t we make an effort to have them experience it early in their formative years? In fact, evidence shows that we are born inclined to work in teams; it is our educational process that suppresses this natural tendency.

Educating for Temporariness

We learn to create ‘permanent’ solutions — trying to make them stand the test of time. Its good to learn that approach as long as it is balanced by learning that many things do not last, and that for many reasons, we should make things that are temporary, like sandcastles. My children have spent a lot of time building castles and moats at the beach and then watch their work get washed by the tide. They kept rebuilding at the tide boundary to see them survive the onslaught of a few waves but to watch them disappear in time. Most of the time they did not even get to show it to others — it was not the purpose. They realized, maybe not explicitly, that the real purpose was to just enjoy the process of creating.

Educating for Alternatives

We teach the most efficient, the easiest way, especially in mathematics, science and engineering. What should be also taught is a perspective that today efficiency is very narrowly defined (in terms of time and cost) and that often some inefficiency (in time and money) at an individual level leads to greater ease and improved efficiency at a societal level. We also will learn to measure things in alternative creative ways. One experiment i practice is to choose a walking path that will create the most interactions. While paths are measured usually by shortest distance or time, i often measure them by the number of people i meet, with the best one that creates the most interactions.

Educating for Self-Evaluation

In today’s education process we get trained to have all our effort be evaluated by someone else. Be it a math problem or an art assignment, from the beginning of our education to the end we put up our work for a grade, for someone to tell us we passed, to tell us how well we did. Later our education is layered with financial discipline so our outcomes are even more numerical, bottom-line oriented and up for easy judgment. Our sense of achievement is then based on someone else’s opinion. We also get trained to be critics of other people’s work.

Educating for Lack of Control

Our educational system teaches us that we are in control. In fact, topics that indicate us having a lack of control are not included in the syllabus and subjects that are subjective are phased out in time. No wonder we come out with an attitude that we ought to be in control. Frustration and stress is the result, when things do not go our way. The workplace is filled with “control-freaks” and people seeking control and power are rewarded over those who appear to flow with the tide and do not take charge.

Putting Changes In Place

Our educational system is breaking down. Our children are paying the price even during school — who among adults would find the material interesting or useful and would not be diagnosed with ADD? Some brave teachers are fighting the standardized testing requirements and many parents are pulling children out of school. Schools are losing funding and therefore talent and passion are leaving the education system. Teachers who are willing to only teach towards test scores stay while those who want to see kids enjoy childhood, thrive, and learn about themselves and the world leave or are thrown out.

Do We Need More Data?

The mental process and outlook that is instilled in our formative years is more powerful than the data we ingest during school. We can see the problem in front of us and even see that our daily acts are making things worse. But instead of changing we continue working on gathering more and more data, evinced by our new love affair with ‘big data’ and ‘cloud analytics’. We are a just like heart-attack patients, reverting to our heart-disease-causing-lifestyle after an attack, unable to act with the data in hand. It is time we adjusted our mindset so we can act on the data already absorbed.



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