It’s the end of another school year, so I have been reflecting a lot on what we have been able to deliver for our students. I am happy with what has been going on in the classroom, the kind of universal learning my students are participating in, becoming expert learners. But the one question that keeps coming back to haunt me, the one thing the students are always seeking, is looking for the real-world applications of what we do in the classroom.
Most of the time that search is couched in the phrase “when am I ever going to use this?”. And sure, it absolutely sounds like a credible problem. I mean, it’s our job to help students prepare for what comes next. That means focusing on the practical; that means reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic. I call BS.
Yes, if the sole goal of education were only to get students ready for work, we should absolutely focus on the practical. Hell, let’s take it steps further and do what countries like China do, having whole communities, schools, and families, dedicated to a factory and production. We can have Starbucks schools, and Walmart schools, and Toyota schools across the nation.
But school must be more than that. The real world is more than that. Learning is so much more than that.
Employability is certainly important, but what most parents -and sometimes educators- don’t understand is that what that is going to look like three years from now, or ten years from now, is so different than what we might predict.
Five years ago, how many of us new about ChatGPT? In 2006, who could have predicted Twitter and changing the face of social media? Or Tesla and the EV market?
These technological wonders and social advancements are constantly evolving, faster and faster, to such a degree that we will never know when we are looking for the real world. In the new economy, the ability to learn will be the employable skill. The ability to adapt will be the thing that sets you apart from everyone else.
In that economy, it won’t matter about what you know, it will matter how quickly you can know more.