Purpose of Education Is to Prepare Students for Life; It's That Simple!

Every time I hear education reform rhetoric calling for education reforms that "Prepare students for jobs of the 21st century," or reforms that "prepare them for jobs that don't exist yet," I can't help but ask: "What the heck does that look like?
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"The core purpose of education is to prepare young people for life after school; helping them to build up the mental, emotional, social, and strategic resources to enjoy challenge and cope well with uncertainty and complexity." Ken Robinson, Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That's Transforming Education

Every time I hear education reform rhetoric calling for education reforms that "Prepare students for jobs of the 21st century," or reforms that "prepare them for jobs that don't exist yet," I can't help but ask: "What the heck does that look like? How can we prepare students for something we don't even know will come to pass?" These are really shortsighted and, if I may say, stupid ideas.

Education prophets and gurus have been spouting their prophecies and oracles since just before the turn of the century. I won't get into mentioning their names, but many of these have made fortunes peddling their prophecies of economic gloom and doom at education conferences and workshops worldwide, charging exorbitant speaking fees and selling books.

The truth is, "Is any of this blather rather productive? Is it really the role of schools to prepare students by training them for the jobs that currently exist, or will exist in the near future? My answer to that question is a loud and boisterous "NO."

Training students for existing jobs is setting them up for future failure because such jobs disappear according to the changing whims of corporations. Do we train students for jobs that we think are going to become important? My answer again is a resounding "Negative!" It is educational malpractice to be gambling with the lives of kids by teaching them what we think they will be doing 10 years or 20 years or 30 years from now. We aren't seers and haven't reliable crystal balls, so we can't play games with the lives of those we teach.

I agree with Ken Robinson. The core of our job as educators is to prepare them for "Life after school." It's really that simple. They don't need to be narrowly pigeonholed into existing jobs or jobs that "might" exist. They need the "mental, emotional, social and strategic resources" to live in a world that none of us really know about. Instead of rolling the dice with the lives of those we teach, we need to provide an education that allows them to face the unknown.

cross posted at the21stcenturyprincipal.blogspot.com

J. Robinson has decades of experience as a K12 Principal, Teacher, and Technology Advocate. Read more at The 21st Century Principal.

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