My journey through my thoughts in the last year has led me to a conclusion that seems obvious. That a lot of the problems we face in the world today can be solved in the next 20 years if we can teach children to think critically. Teach them not only how to consume information, but how to question. Not only to learn, but to celebrate being wrong. Not just to produce, but to create.
This is a tall order, of course. This wisdom has been out there for decades, there is nothing new here. Every idealistic teacher has thought of this and much more, I am merely scratching the surface. Yet it seems like we are still stuck in the same world we were in at the time of the industrial revolution. Teaching students the same tired old things with the same tired old methods.
There are reasons why issues persist in our education system. Education is a public good and governments and bureaucracy are involved with the dissemination of knowledge and the literacy of the population. This inevitably slows things down as education vies with other public and private interests for money and attention. Furthermore, the methods of publishing and distributing information until recently have been primitive and expensive, so we needed text books containing knowledge deemed ‘important’ that were distributed all over the country. This then leads to the one-size-fits-all education system. A well-oiled machine for churning out human calculators and good Consumers-with-a-capital-C that can all see a way to achieving ‘the dream’.
Except ‘the dream’ is changing, and the way to ensure future comfort for oneself is changing. But the way we educate our population doesn’t seem to be changing. Churning out doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, and billions of stay-in-your-lane laborers isn’t good enough anymore. Those jobs are gone. Or they will be soon. Besides, the current system of education alienates half the population at the outset by catering to a very specific learning style and forcing children to fit a generic mold. We have to allow for all children to be thinkers and tinkerers and creators. We have to allow for all children to be equally successful. And the system isn’t designed for that. But it can be.
So, why do we have the ability to solve these systematic problems now that we haven’t been able to solve for the last fifty years? The power has shifted into the hands of the creator. Here the ‘creator’ is anyone with a good idea and the means and motivation to realize it. It is allowing for innovative actors to enter an industry that for a long time has been expensive and mired in regulation. Additionally, because of the rise in computing power and the ubiquitousness of computers we have the technology and ability to provide learning platforms that can cater to an individual’s needs. The one-size-fits-all model doesn’t need to exist anymore. We can encourage learning on an individual basis to account for individual needs and the needs of our times.
Teachers are doing such great work and paying teachers more would be a quick and easy solution to most of our woes. But that relies on governments getting their act together which is not something we can control in the short run. What we can control is the creation and distribution of cheap, easy to use, and widespread technology that is better able to assist the teacher and student.
The work happening in the field is progressing fast and is going to be exciting to watch.