Friday, August 5, 2011

Jobs of the Future...So What?!

How did his parents prepare him for a job that didn't even exist when he was in school??
I've been bothered by something for a while. I've seen several YouTube videos (this is just one example) featuring clips of students who hold up whiteboards stating all these facts and figures about their technology usage and how teachers need to engage them and how they spend hours and hours reading electronic material and finally how these children are being ill-prepared for jobs of the future 'that don't even exist yet'. 

And that's where everyone seems to get hung up - the idea that kids today need to be prepared for jobs that we can't even comprehend or imagine.

What kind of message are we sending teachers with these sad videos? "Give up, you don't even KNOW what these kids are going to face??" 

My thoughts? Get over it. For hundreds of years society has been preparing children for jobs that didn't yet exist. 

Think about it. Did George Washington's parents and teachers realize they were preparing him to be President of the United States? The job of President didn't exist yet. 

Benjamin Franklin's parents wanted him to join the clergy, but he ended up working as an apprentice printer. He then went on to start the first public library, organize a volunteer fire department, experiment with electricity, and serve as a diplomat. How on earth could any teacher prepare a child for such an assortment of jobs?

Oprah and Bill Gates weren't specifically prepared for the amazing jobs they created for themselves. How can you prepare someone for their own company based on their own inventions and creative content?

Of course these people are huge, unique mega-stars, but what about common people? The best example of someone who currently holds a job that no teacher could have imagined is my husband. He works for an automotive marketing company. His job includes research, writing, training others, creating drive courses, surveying sites to determine their usefulness, logistics, human resources, ....and countless other tasks. 

He was prepared for this job in public schools in a small town in Western Kentucky. Throughout his years in school he sat in desks (with the seat attached to the desktop) in rows. He used paper and pencil for everything. He read from basal reading series and happily completed pages and pages out of the accompanying workbooks. He memorized times tables, colored pictures of the state bird, flag and flower. His classes were tracked and bad kids were paddled. His high school installed a DOS computer lab during his senior year. Before the computer lab was installed, he had typing class using electronic typewriters. Just before he graduated, the high school won a grant from somewhere that installed televisions in every classrooms - and he thought that was cool! All of this seems so backwards to us today....and yet...he is a successful, well-adjusted person.

This is not to say we should return to the past. I do not condone the use of basal reading series, nor do I think we should level all of our classes and return to the days of endless worksheets. 

What I do want to say is that we should not worry so much about whether our kids will be prepared for the future. Haven't they always been prepared? If the human race wasn't doing a good job of preparing its young for the future we wouldn't be here now.

I don't think about the specific JOBS I'm preparing my students for. I'm thinking about preparing my students and my own children for LIFE. I think that if we, as parents and educators, focus on raising responsible, respectful, creative, curious, intelligent, cooperative young people, then they'll fall into place where they are meant to be. Even if it's a job no one has ever heard of or imagined. 

I'm not giving up on students and I'm not going to be led to believe that I can't adequately prepare them for the future. Yes, we should embrace technology. We should expose students to the most current ideas and resources. We should challenge all students and help them discover their strengths and interests in the world. We need to step up our efforts in math and science so that our children will be able to compete globally. We can do it! 

Maybe I'll create a short video about all the awesome things we can do...

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