Education · Reflections · Social Justice

Education and Our Future

“One of the primary goals educators are tasked with today is to help students become college ready and – even more importantly – career ready.” Paige Johnson, Education Strategist, Intel Corporation, ISTE Board member. Source: Get Active: Reimagining Learning Spaces for Student Success, page 1

“One of the primary missions of education is to prepare students for democratic and civic engagement.” Susan Benigni Cipolle. Source: Service-Learning and Social Justice: Engaging Students in Social Change, page ix

The title of a recent article in Business Insider heralds “Experts predict robots will take over 30% of our jobs by 2025 — and white-collar jobs aren’t immune“. A recent report in reports:

  • 25% of full time employees will be “on-demand”, moving beyond the creative freelancer of today to include top-end problem solving professionals. Individuals will need to brand themselves to obtain and keep jobs.
  • There will be growing demand for professional tribers—freelance professional managers that specializes in putting teams together for very specific projects
  • Teaching will increasingly move to the on-demand realm, creating the role of freelance professors.
  • End-of-life planners will be needed to help shape the last phase of people’s lives.
  • Neuro-implant technicians will be needed to give our brains electronic upgrades
  • Smart-home handypersons will be as needed as today’s roofers and plumbers to keep all those Internet of Thing gadgets in our home connected and working.
  • Virtual Reality Experience Designers will help us feel as if we’re in the same room with our other office workers without ever leaving our homes.

There are other things on the list, but it gives a taste of where futurists see our world heading. If education exists primarily to make sure students are career ready, then industrial leaders, futurists, and researchers need to have an active role in designing the curriculum of our schools today.

But is the future inevitable? Do we need to get on board or get left behind?

By contrast, if the primary objective of education is to prepare students for democratic and civic engagement, then I propose we need to also incorporate education that helps us question what kind of world we want, and then to critically reflect on whether various technologies as designed and used take us closer to our vision and goals, or away from it. Rather than seeing technology as a guiding evolutionary force operating outside of social structures independently driving who we become, we learn that it is something shaped by social forces so as to further shape society. Thus, it is ultimately not technology that is shaping society, but rather people, their culture, their language, their political and economic structures, etc. who act in concert as those social forces that have shaped technology.

I think there is great value in having businesses and futurists present as stakeholders when discussing goals and pedagogy for education. But I think there is great danger when they become the primary stakeholder. We need champions of democracy and civil society to have as great or greater voice as a stakeholder, along with parents, social services, students, and others.

The alternative is to cede control of our future to those who believe technology offers the solution to our social challenges and opportunities, and who believe that reasoned self-interest and the free-market economic system will come of its own accord to solutions that are in the best interest of the common good.

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