Initially inspired by The Future Project and its mission.
The Future project is a gargantuan effort to uproot maladies of our High Schools – most of them took birth during the last century of industrial revolution. An era dictated by punishing failures, questioning unconventional thinking and so on – that ultimately hamstrung many young minds to pursue their dreams and realize their passions.
“Most people are not really free. They are confined by the niche in the world that they carve out for themselves. They limit themselves to fewer possibilities by the narrowness of their vision.”
- V. S. Naipaul
I believe the narrowness of our vision and lack of curiosity has been etched into our thinking due to our current education systems. As children we don’t limit our thinking to a particular niche. Its the so called “education” and societal forces snub our creativity and appetite for risk taking.
While most of the 20th century schooling & education system worked for that era, it might not work for the future generations for various reasons.
Here are some of the reasons why we need to think differently – fundamentally a revolutionary way – for the 21st century
Current Thinking Grew out of Age of Scarcity
19th & 20th centuries lived through the phase of finite resources, depression and focused on creating efficiencies to tap and acquire those finite resources.
To that end, majority of the schools & institutions worked with a blueprint to teach basic facts and knowledge to become efficient with the finite resources. For example, kids read their Textbooks, do well in their class, get good grades, graduate and that becomes a validation of their capabilities; then they go on to get a job based on that “qualification”.
When you manage for scarcity, you only need to think “out of box” to create efficiencies to tap into the scarce resources. You don’t need a revolutionary way of thinking.
Few innovators & thought leaders have created industrial complexes (thank you Seth Godin) around concepts & ideas that took birth in 19th century. These industrial complexes needed many widget makers to serve the markets and needs of the industries. Schools & Universities got funded to serve the job market for these industrial complexes.
Majority of masses didn’t need to be dreamers, thought leaders, innovators & high achievers to prosper and thrive. They just need to get through high school in early 20th century and in later part of the century, graduate from college to get a job and buy a house – the basic american dream.
In 20th century most of the revolutionary innovations such as railroads, airplanes, and industrial complexes have powered the opportunities. To that end, schools, educational institutions and organizations have structured to ride off of those innovations to create sustainable growth in the society via the “widget makers” otherwise known as college graduates, they churn out year after year.
Today with more and more graduates, 20th century industrial complexes don’t have enough jobs to serve growing job seekers. Of course automation also impacted demand side of mass work force.
With this kind of “good enough for a job” thinking, most of the schooling experience has become mundane, rote and insipid.
Not only that, over the years, schools and education systems have forgotten the real purpose of education & learning – more importantly ignored to convey that to their students.
Innovation Cycles of 20th Century have been already tapped in: Need Next Generation Engines that power the 21st Century.
The concept of tossing your graduation hat on the day of graduation ceremony symbolically meant that you are qualified for a job; 21st century is not about that.
In 21st century Wikipedia should replace Textbooks; Time spent towards teaching basic concepts, knowledge & facts should be replaced by powering creativity, passion & experimentation. Khan Academy and its clones can handle most of basic sciences, knowledge and facts.
If 20th century was about learning the facts & gaining knowledge, 21st century is about making something out of that knowledge. 20th century was able learning the history and 21st century should be about making your own history.
Jobs Economy is past! Creation Economy is the future
What’s unique about the 21st century is about nonexistent jobs economy and it took massive financial meltdown (2007 to 2011) caused by skullduggery of few greedy bankers to surface the inevitability. Many smart and well-qualified graduates realized that in a hurry. In cities such as NYC and SFO, this inability to find jobs let to the first wave of “mass” creation thinkers. Established entrepreneurs, high net worth individuals and thought leaders joined hands to create accelerators and incubators to feed off the supply created by job less economy.
For those young graduates who are already in search for jobs the choice was clear – either keep sending resumes via LinkedIn & Monster or go meet other smart people and create something on their own. Fortunately cost of experimentation has also gone down to help fuel this trend – at least in the technology and consumer Internet space.
When you educate a kid for a job that is currently available in the society today, that job no longer exists by the time kid graduates.
Maker & DIY projects are no longer left to handful of tinkers who are naturally passionate about such projects. Maker & creation revolution is already showing its signs of growth amongst those graduates who are not able to find the jobs. Tech, Health Care IT and Fin Tech incubators and accelerators are powering these jobs less graduates.
But, what about High Schools kids? Someone needs to sow the seeds of creativity; someone needs to ignite their passions; someone needs to rekindle their young minds.
Schools do a good job teaching basic sciences and skills – a basic hygiene – for living in a society. While these basic skills and knowledge is necessary, it is no longer sufficient if these young minds want to go become a future Rockefeller, Martin Luther King, Dalai Lama, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Mahatma Gandhi. Also, 20th century survived with one of each, but 21st century needs many Rockefellers, many Martin Luther Kings, many Dalai Lamas and many Newtons.
Where is the ray of hope for our high school students?
The Future Project (TFP) might be the answer!
Its not easy …..but the revolution has to start somewhere by someone to make a dent and I see that ray of hope in this mission and few others. Efforts from CitizenSchools.Org & Teach for America and the like along with TFP will add fuel to this revolution.