Human Futures No. 2 May 2018 - Page 26

The world has changed since we were in school. That much we know. But we also know that the schools have not changed much during that time despite oceans of ink and years of talk. So what’s the problem? Indeed, there are many. • • FUTURE GENERATIONS Teach the Future • by Peter Bishop There is no natural constituency for transformational change within the education system. Everybody wants better schools, but few have the stomach for a thorough rethink and reinvention of the schools for this century. Even the good students don’t want it because they are still getting into the colleges of their choice. A modern education system is probably more expensive than one built for the industrial world of the 19th and 20th centuries. The efficiency of mass education in groups, of one-size fits all will be gone. Individualized and customized learning environments will be required which will take a different skill set and probably more resources. And finally aside from a few visionaries, few know what a modern educational system looks like. So the present system continues absent the appetite and the political will to experiment and figure out what to do next. Despite these difficulties, the current state of the world that students are facing requires us to consider what and how we are to make this change. We could go through the litany of what has changed in the world -- globalization, immigration, populist politics, civil unrest and wars. But there is one undeniable, pervasive change – we are communicating differently today. Communication technologies have had revolutionary consequences many times in history – THE R ATIONALE • • • • Writing allowed authorities to communicate at a distance and rule vast empires. The printing press brought literacy to the masses, brought down the Church’s monopoly on religion and truth, and sparked the scientific revolution. Broadcast media brought the world to our living rooms. And now the Internet – a medium involving billions of people like radio and television, but with the two- way, interactive capability of the telephone. The result? Increasing rates of change and more complex and thorny issues, for sure. But for education, the implication is that the value of teaching mostly content is over. You had to know a lot in the 20th century to be successful, but not now. Young people access more information in a few clicks than we ever learned over many years in school. And they access it when they need it, not years before “just in case” they might need it. So why are we still teaching content? The simple answer is 26 M AY 2 0 1 8 HUMAN FUTURES that it is easier to teach and to measure, and it’s largely what the accountability systems are asking for. It’s all in the text and in the test -- questions and answers that can be read, spoken and assessed. The answers are in “the back of the book.” So what’s the alternative? Very simply we need more attention to acquiring skills rather than just teaching information; learning the how rather than the what; using information rather than just learning it; leaving school, not just smart, but also skillful. Ask any teacher what they really want their students to learn -- to do independent research, to think for themselves as critical and creative thinkers and problem solvers, to collaborate and communicate effectively. But how many are actually teaching that? Very few because they don’t know how, and it would mean covering less “material,” less of what’s in the text and in the tests. Excellent science teachers allow students to discover scientific truths on their own rather than from a lecture. Excellent math teachers have students figure out the pattern of solving problems for themselves. Excellent history teachers challenge students with the uncertainties and ambiguities that previous generations faced. But few know how to do this, fewer are encouraged to do so, and little of that shows up in the tests and accountability ratings. But there is one subject in which acquiring skills is not just an option; it is a requirement, and that is the emerging discipline of Futures Studies. I directed the world’s first graduate degree in Futures Studies at the University of Houston. Since then, more degrees have been created, numerous seminars are being offered, and countless conference keynotes describe the future in dizzying detail. Everyone knows what a futurist is (vaguely), and more and more appreciate the need to look ahead to prepare for and influence the future. But all of these courses, seminars, and presentations are being directed at adults. Who is talking to young people about what might lie ahead and how they might prepare for that? It is their future more than it is ours, and we owe it to them to share what we know. 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