It is important to remember that learning and education overlap but they are not the same thing. Learning is the act of acquiring new skills and knowledge. Education is the process that society uses to pass on knowledge, values and skills.
First, we need to acknowledge the progress that the current public educational system brought our society. It was architected by Horace Mann in the first half of the nineteenth century utilizing the best technology of the time – the industrial model. Before that, only the wealthy, powerful and the clergy got more than a couple of years’ “schoolin’”. It has become a major piece of infrastructure. No country can be considered modern without a public education system. Public education has certainly improved the literacy rate. Stop and thank a teacher because you can read this post!
Grades K-12 may have adopted computers but the basic system (the infrastructure) is still deeply rooted in the industrial age. The documentary, Waiting for Superman takes a rather depressing look at education in the United States. There is significant disagreement on the primary causes and failures. This is a highly partisan issue. Conservatives point the fact that schools are government-owned and therefore socialist. Liberals claim it is a lack of funding and poverty/lack of parent involvement. Others point to the fact that standardized testing leads to “Teaching the tests” not real learning. We cannot even agree on how success should be measured – most simply choose advancement to the next level of education (eg percentage of High School graduates that go to college)
Higher education was characterized by “liberal education”. It has nothing to do with liberal politics! According to Peter J Taylor, “The goals of liberal education are to produce people who are open-minded, free from provincialism, dogma, preconception and ideology’ conscious of their opinions and judgments; reflective of their actions and aware of their place in the social and natural worlds -in short, critical thinkers (a topic for next week). Somewhere along the way, specialization took hold where experts had ever-narrower fields of expertise.”
In other words, the curriculum of college education needs to return to its roots. Financing college needs to be restructured so that graduates do not start out their careers as debt slaves. People that choose vocational education – and there is a huge need for this type of learning – should not mistake that for liberal education.
Creating the Change Agent Vision for Education
Change Agents recognize that today’s education either lacks or has the wrong Vision. Since Vision is the cornerstone, it causes flaws in almost everything that is downstream, goals, roles and responsibilities, processes/procedures, key performance indicators and critical success factors.
Whatever the cause, there is clearly a mismatch of subjects to current reality. It is time for the next generation of education to be architected. The goals of education should simply be to help people have the basic skills to operate in the world, understand their place and responsibilities in society, gain enough self-awareness to know HOW they can best contribute.
Next week, we will dig into the critical skills that need to be learned to participate in the Next Economy.