This post is actually a slightly adjusted version of a comment to this thought-provoking commentary. I thought it was a compartmentalized thought enough that I wanted to post it here for my own record.

The prompt, from Ashley’s essay, is:

“We’re taught what to think, not how to think”.

Therein lies a problem. The education model being experienced today (K-12 & much of higher ed) has been built on top an old process designed to produce two things: workers, and more academics.

If we’re willing to put aside the “more academics” part and focus on the “workers” part of the product of education, we need to consider what’s changed. Through at least one lens, changes exist in workplace and the expectations it has.

Rather than go down the road of “I paid six figures for a college education and now I can’t get a job, EFF YOU America” that many young professionals are doing right now, there’s a huge, huge, HUGE missed opportunity to improve the educational system using mentorship, and refocusing on learning skills instead of just the learning of skills.

When the industries with the highest demand were focused primarily on manufacturing, someone who came out of school not only had basic skills, but had the proficiency to learn some more basic skills in order to accomplish a task. Manufacturing and the industrial workplace provided a very specific, guided ladder to continue learning skills, leading to promotions, opportunities, better pay, hours, so on and so forth.

Times be-a changing.

Now, with another industrial shift fully swinging away from manufacturing (sorry Detroit) and towards knowledge work, the ability to just learn new tasks isn’t enough.

You’re expected to synthesize new, unmarked tasks.

You’re expected to create, not just produce.

If you can’t create, you’re going to have to try a LOT harder to get a great job. And that thesis ignores the increased likelihood that you’ll work for yourself, start a company, be a great leader of your industry or workforce. Maybe more.

And speaking of great leadership, mentorship seems to have been lost almost everywhere with the exception of artisans, and craftsmen (craftspeople, for the gender sensitive). And even there, art schools are stacking students high with skills, and until the last minute, very little REAL WORLD practicum.

Take a look at this video from IgnitePhilly I, where University of the Arts’ President Sean Buffington eloquently explains how as a university administrator he KNOWS that things are fucked up, and even how, but doesn’t know to go about making steps in any new direction.

From IgnitePhilly2 (4 months later), Chris Lehmann of the Science Leadership Acadamy talks about how schools need to stop being run like businesses, find new metrics for success, and a general lack of responsibility and accountability in the system despite the quality of the educators. Science Leadership Acadamy is an empowerment-based educational system, experimentally created in partnership with The Franklin Institute. One of my favorite points he makes is: you can’t learn when you feel the subject is more important than you are.

“What happens when school is real life, and not just preparation for real life”.