News Herald – Juliann Talkington
Over the past 35 years the world has changed radically. We moved from typewriters to computers, land lines to cell phones, handwritten communication to email and text messages, assembly line workers to robots, and libraries to the Internet.
With these technological changes came workplace changes. With the workplace changes came job changes. As jobs changed, employers’ expectations for workers changed.
For generations, high schools and universities prepared students for lifetime jobs. This meant schools offered hundreds of classes to provide students with specific skills. Since technology now changes about every 24 months, it is more important for employers to have workers who can quickly adapt than employees who know every nuance of Microsoft Word.
This means the entire education paradigm needs to shift away from specialization to a deep understanding of basic subjects – math, science, reading, writing, and speaking. In addition, we need to encourage our kids to be creative.
Education has been slow to meet the new workplace demands. There are several reasons for the sluggish response. First, education in the US is close to a monopoly. Monopolies are generally slow to respond to changes in market conditions. Second, many education leaders went to school when lifetime jobs were the norm. Third, only a few educators were encouraged to obtain a strong grounding in math and science, critical 21st Century skills.
So how do we move forward?
At first glimpse it seems like we need more options. Although it is counterintuitive, more class options will not solve the problem. Instead we need more depth in core subjects. This means we can reduce options, pay our teachers more to deliver the depth of understanding in basic subjects that employers demand, and refine our feedback systems so we can get students to higher academic levels.
Then, we need to allow students to move through the material at their own pace. Students should not be forced to take physical science if they are ready to take AP Physics or to take remedial writing if they are ready to analyze Greek literature.
Next, we need to think critically before we spend money on technology. By the time a technology is in the classroom it is already obsolete. For example, smart boards and iPads are nice, but without the necessary academic content they will not prepare our kids for 21st Century jobs.
In summary, we need to change our approach so our kids have the necessary skills for high quality jobs.