Monday, August 08, 2016

"Jobs Of Tomorrow"

I graduated in high school in 1980, nearly a decade before the internet even existed. Yesterday, marked the 25th anniversary of the first website, a text only page with instructions on how the world wide web worked, with links to documents detailing, among other things, how to set up your own server. Today, of course, the internet is pervasive, but even when my own daughter was born in 1996, we were only just beginning to realize how significant it might become.

On the one hand, I want our elected leaders, our representatives, to talk about education, yet whenever they do, from whatever party, from whatever nation on earth, I find myself grinding my teeth and wishing they would just shut up. The world over, if there is a single issue upon which all our politicians agree it's on being dead wrong about education. Everyone of them seems to believe that the primary reason we educate children is to prepare them for those "jobs of tomorrow." We must get them "college and career ready." Indeed, it is vital to our nation's survival that we "out educated the Chinese" (an actual Barack Obama quote).

Education is about much more than mere job training, but even if it was only about teaching kids how to earn a greasy buck, those guys have no way of knowing what those jobs of tomorrow will be. None of us does. We can guess, but we would be wrong because whatever the next big thing is going to be, it hasn't yet been invented. I guarantee that my high school guidance counselor knew nothing about computers, let alone the internet. Yet our "leaders" keep insisting that teachers, even those of us teaching preschoolers, are responsible for preparing children for an unknowable job of tomorrow. What they mean, of course, are the jobs of today, the jobs of rote and drudgery that no one wants to do, so we double down on the drill-and-kill of getting kids ready for jobs that simply won't exist when they are ready to enter the workforce.

All photos in this post courtesy of the Woodland Park Cooperative School's jobs of tomorrow training program

The proper career aspiration for a preschooler is, and always has been, "princess" or "cowboy." And the role of education in a democracy is, and always has been, to prepare children to take on their full roles as self governing citizens; adults who are sociable and cooperative, with the creativity and critical thinking and skills required to adapt to whatever the future brings. The only way to assure that is to allow them to pursue their own passions and interests through their self-directed play. If our children have that, then the future, for all of us, will take care of itself.

When we talk of the "jobs of tomorrow" we are always blowing smoke because you and I have no say in it. The jobs of tomorrow will be created not by us, but rather by the children we are teaching today. They are the ones who will be inventing whatever it is that will be, a quarter of a century from now, the next internet. The only thing we do know about those jobs is that we know nothing at all. Meanwhile, it's our job to keep them safe, let them play, and get the hell out of their way.

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Judy Yero said...

I just returned from the AERO (Alternative Education Resource Organization) conference and the keynote speakers (Peter Gray and Yong Zhao) could not have agreed with you more. I think you would have been heartened to see the growth of the self-directed learning movement. The revolution has begun, so it's a question of how quickly we can reach a tipping point. Peter Gray suggests that it will happen when most people know someone who has experienced self-directed education and realizes that they are not "losers."

Unknown said...

I've worked in a play based and very much self directed learnt early years program at an international school for many years and the experience has revolutionized how I feel about teaching and learning. Thank you so much for your spot on thoughts.