How to Prepare Students for a Rapidly Changing World Where Jobs Will No Longer Be Available?

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The world is ever changing and moving faster and faster. The internet has changed everything and our kids are at the epicenter of the changes.

>This is a new world for us to explore, one in which the power of critical thinking to turn back on itself in continual cycles and re-cycles of self-critique is crucial.

Do we chuck it all for a simpler lifestyle or do we keep it? Technology brings new opportunities, new safety devices, more convenience and new lifestyles.

But with this “tech” we must also juggle all the trappings that come with it. Including the need for money to support the toys.

A few of the tougher challenges:
>The altered forms of community, for community in a world of automatic tellers, home shopping, self-service, delivery services, malls, video rentals, and television.
>Young people today can expect to make from four to seven career changes in their lifetimes.
>Many of the current fields of study will soon become obsolete due to the emergence of new technologies.
>Consider the issues of depletion of the ozone layer, world hunger, over-population, and AIDS. Without a grasp of the elements, and internal relationships of the elements, in each of dozens of interrelating systems from specific product emissions to social incentives, from effective utilization of the media to human learning, we are adrift in a stormy sea of information. Without a grasp of the of political realities, economic pressures, scientific data on the physical environment and its changes — all of which are simultaneously changing the as well — we stand no chance of making any significant positive impact on the deterioration of the quality of life for all who share the planet.

So it appears, we can no longer rely on the past to be the guide for the future. Technology will continually race ahead, creating links that make the world smaller and smaller. New opportunities will continually emerge but within them are embedded new problems, hence the need for acute readiness and disciplined ingenuity.

Both the citizens of the United States and American business have yet to come to terms with these realities.

>… the vast majority of American companies … [continue] to opt for traditional hierarchical work organizations that … [make] few demands on the skills of their workers. In fact, most American companies interviewed by the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce continue to prefer this approach, which dooms most American workers to a low-wage future. If American workers are to look forward to anything more than low-wage employment, changes in work organization are required to upgrade their skills and productivity so that American companies can afford to pay higher wages and still compete in world markets. (“Failing Our Youth: America’s K–12 Education,” p. 52)

America seems to be lagging behind as European and Japanese companies are making some very needed changes, namely, “making their high-wage labor more productive not simply by investing in more equipment but by organizing their workers in ways that
>… [upgrade] their skills.” World-class, internationally competitive companies recognize the need to play a new game and have re-organized themselves accordingly. As Tyson explains,

These new kinds of workers are being groomed to be critical thinkers and leaders of tomorrow. they are asked to use good judgment and make well-thought-out decisions.

How will world and American workers acquire these fundamental abilities to think deeply and well? Are educators able to “make meaning” out of these exhortations of our leaders?

>The U.S. public school systems, like most U.S. businesses, remain mired in the past, focused on lower order skills, and unresponsive to the need for higher order abilities. Again, as Laura Tyson puts it, “[Higher-order tasks] … require higher-order language, math, scientific, and reasoning skills that America’s K–12 education system is not providing.”

The Vision of Robert Reich: The Thinking of Workers as the New Capital

>Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor, in his seminal book, The Work of Nations, offers a shocking perspective. No longer will economies be tied to the fate of national corporations. No longer will we be sheltered by the power of our enormous industrial complex, our major corporations. No longer can we say, “What is good for General Motors is good for the United States!” The new form of “wealth” will no longer principally reside in the number of dollars in American pockets. Rather it will reside in the quality of the minds of our workers. As Reich puts it,

I am not sure how we will get to this point?

>Perhaps the changes fueled by new opportunities will bring a new economy . . . replete with unidentified problems, unknown solutions, and unknown means of putting them together — mastery of old domains of knowledge isn’t nearly enough to guarantee a good income. Nor, importantly, is it even necessary . . . What is more valuable is the capacity to effectively and creatively use the knowledge. (p. 182)

The Vision of Lester Thurow:

>As Thurow sees it, “Nowhere are the necessary changes going to be harder to make than in the United States, for in the past century it has been the most successful economy in the world.” (Head to Head, p. 16) Our tendency, Thurow believes, will be to continue the strategies that brought us success in the past, even though those strategies no longer fit a “multi-polar” world.

>Who can make the best products? What expands their standards of living most rapidly? Who has the best-educated and best-skilled work force in the world? Who is the world’s leader in investment — plant and equipment, research and development, infrastructure? Who organizes best? Whose institutions — government, education, business — are world leaders in efficiency? (pp. 23–24)

The Vision of W. Edwards Deming:

>W. Edwards Deming, the American marvel who, after WWII, designed the highly successful Japanese style of management and production, built his whole approach on the assumption that the most important asset of any company is the capacity of the individuals in it to use their ability to think critically to improve their collective performance. Success can be found, in his view, in the ability to devise structures that systematically encourage and reward the critique and improvement of process. He therefore established a system of interrelated networks of “workers and managers” (quality control circles, so called) who use “critical reflection in a formal but unthreatening setting so as to establish what it is good to do.” (Holt, p. 383)

The Vision of Robert Heilbroner: The Challenge of Large-Scale Disorder

“Robert Heilbroner argues, as do Reich and Thurow, that though capitalism will be dominant in the 21st Century, there will be serious conflicts between opposing forms of capitalism. As a result of these conflicts, a new and perplexing dimension to the picture will emerge: the challenge of “macro-disorder,” of economy-wide and world-wide problems arising from the market mechanism following its own logic without making critical adjustments.”

>The overcutting of forests, the overfishing of the seas, the over-consumption of gasoline . . . the indeterminacy of the outlook for investment and for technology; the unequal distribution of incomes; the volatility of credit; the tendency towards monopoly; over-regulation; the technological displacement of labor and the technological impetus towards cartelization; the inflationary tendencies of a successful economy and the depressive tendencies of an unsuccessful one; the vacillation between optimism and pessimism . . . the approach of ecological barriers . . . the internationalizing tendency of capital that continues to outpace the defensive powers of individual governments. (p. 104)

He summarizes our situation as follows:

>… the problems of capitalist disorder — too many to recite, too complex in their origins to take up one at a time . . . arise from the workings of the system . . . The problems must be addressed by the assertion of political will . . . the undesired dynamics of the economic sphere must be contained, redressed, or redirected by the only agency capable of asserting a counter-force to that of the economic sphere. It is the government. (pp. 108–109)

What, then, do we need to do?

>As a society, our challenge is to recognize that the work of the future is the work of the mind, intellectual work, work that involves reasoning and intellectual self-discipline. Our challenge is to demonstrate intellectual courage in facing our traditional indifference to the development of our minds, our traditional arrogance in assuming that our common sense will always provide the answers, and that our example will always lead the world. We are unaccustomed to this kind of challenge.

“1) We must parent differently. We must respond differently to our children’s “Why?” questions. We must not give them short didactic answers, but must encourage them to conjecture as to the answers. We must call more attention to the extent of our own ignorance and not try to convince our children that adults have good answers for most of their questions.”

>We must dialogue more with our children about complexities in their lives and in ours. We must help them to discover their own capacity to figure things out, to reason through situations. We must hold them responsible to think and not simply to rotely respond. We must step more into their points of view and help them to step more into the points of view of others. We must help them to identify their own assumptions, clarify their emerging concepts, question their habitual inferences. We must raise our children so that critical thinking becomes an integral part of their everyday lives. They must learn to accept its responsibility and come to discover its power and challenge.

“2) We must work differently. We must bring the reality of cooperative critical thinking into the workplace in a thorough way. This means that we must abandon quick-fix strategies and recognize the counterfeits of substantial change. We must become aware of the difference, for example, between the jargon of “Total Quality Management” (which we now have in abundance) and the reality (which we almost entirely lack).”

>Both managers and workers need to learn how to begin to think in a new way: we must learn how to discipline our thinking to a new level of clarity, precision, relevance, depth, and coherence. CEO’s need to learn how to think within alternative models of how to organize and run businesses. Leaders in industry need to learn to broaden their perspectives and think about the long-range interests of the economy and not simply about short-range, vested interests of their businesses. Labor leaders need to concentrate more on support for programs that cultivate broad-based job skills and abilities, that emphasize the basic thinking skills of workers, and less on immediate bread and butter issues.

>We must each take it upon ourselves to become lifelong learners, searching for ways to continuously upgrade our reasoning skills, our critical reading skills, our ability and propensity to enter into the points of view of others. Complex problems have many facets, and intellectual humility requires that we become used to exploring multiple perspectives before we make a decision. No more “Ready!… Fire!… Aim!”

“3) We must educate differently. We can no longer afford the high cost of educators who have few or no critical thinking skills, and little or no motivation to develop them. Teachers and administrators who do not themselves think critically, cannot design changes in curriculum and instruction that foster critical thinking. We must come to terms with the most fundamental problem in education today and that is “the blind leading the blind.” Many educators do not realize that they are functionally blind to the demands of our post-industrial world.”


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“How to Prepare Students for a Rapidly Changing World Where Jobs Will No Longer Be Available?”