Thursday, July 11, 2013

I Remember the Future Well

Opinion piece in today's Irish Times suggesting that we may be educating kids for jobs that no longer exist and that children should be taught how to learn rather than specific subjects. "Tell them that they will have many jobs, multiple careers."

I remember being taught, in both school and college, that "there's no such thing as a job for life any more" and that I would most likely change my career three times in my working life. I'm now thirty-five and I've been working in the same job since I was twenty-three. Of course, there's no knowing what will happen in the future. And my situation may be atypical. But I can't think about those uneasy assurances I was made in school without wondering how much unreliable information is given to innocent schoolchildren.

(I also remember one of my primary school teachers-- a very good one-- telling us that, in the future, wars would most likely be fought on computers. Looking back, I think I misunderstood what he meant, but I had an image of wars fought entirely on computers, with no physical combat at any point.)

Another thing I dislike about the article is the equating of education and training. The more the labour market seems unpredictable and unstable, the more sense a good solid liberal education makes to me.

And how do you "teach children how to learn", anyway? This is one of those clich├ęs that roll off the tongue so easily, but that don't make much sense on further reflection. I can't think of any way to teach without teaching something specific. And when I remember all the "meta-learning" in my own education-- for instance, learning about historical methods rather than history-- I don't think it really did me any good at all.

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