School is so “20th Century”

Students of Nan Hua High School gathering in t...

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School is so “20th Century
January 19, 2011 by mwbusa
How long before we begin to hear this refrain? Maybe from students, maybe from “experts”.

Given developments in today’s world, and they keep coming, it’s not far-fetched to think that the present traditional model is simply not up to the task, is outdated, and out-of-sync with the needs to modern life.

We have to get our view up to a higher level to see this. We have to get out of the myopic perspective that is leading us into the abyss. The “fixes” and “reforms” that are being discussed are all old-school ideas based on a system that is out of date and no longer applies to the world we live in. Look at the pace of change today, look at the shifting landscape of business and our culture. We are in the midst of significant change – not just a little “faster” or “newer”, like for the past 50 years… no, we’re in the midst of significant change in how things happen and how our lives function.

Those who will do well in this world, indeed those who will LEAD in this world are those who will be prepared for it. Preparation requires solid thinking skills, which means thinking in principles and thinking creatively.

A recent story in the NY Times Magazine spoke about innovation leadership and reported that “we need help thinking”. The business world is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to consultants – the article calls them “brains for hire” – who can “innovate” for them – and the form of innovation is creative thinking. That’s it. There simply aren’t many good people who can do this “in house”.

This is why “school” is outdated. School as we’ve known it maybe served a purpose 50-100 years ago, I’m still not convinced it was the best model even for that world though, but it surely is wrong-headed today. We need an education system that prepares for today: which means preparing students for how to prepare. See the difference? We can no longer simply prepare for the present time because by the time students get out the other end twenty years later they are already “obsolete”. We need to prepare students for the world that they will encounter in a time when that world doesn’t yet exist (!). We need to equip them to solve problems that we haven’t even identified yet. Scary? Not in the least. We’re up to this task- it’s called THINKING, and it’s the one thing that traditional education hasn’t done a very good job of “teaching”.

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