Around the County

Education: The launchpad to lifelong learning

By Pat Stuart
Posted 5/11/21

Are you as confused as I am about what’s been happening with our educational system? The entire thing is in flux. And no one seems to have a firm grasp on what’s happening or what we …

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Around the County

Education: The launchpad to lifelong learning

Posted

Are you as confused as I am about what’s been happening with our educational system? The entire thing is in flux. And no one seems to have a firm grasp on what’s happening or what we should do about it.

The state Legislature just adjourned without performing its duty of voting on the five-year school recalibration or its job of either finding new sources of revenue for education or slicing and dicing the existing funding. And what’s going to happen to Northwest College? It seems to be having a nervous breakdown — not to mention an identity crisis. 

Is it a school of higher education or is it a trade school? What courses to add, what to cancel? Instead of algebra, add fantasy game coding; eliminate civics and offer welding. 

Right across the country educators, parents, lawmakers and people like you and me are involved in the question of how formal education needs to change. Which is really a matter of determining the end goal.

We want our children to emerge from the educational system prepared to prosper. We know that is unlikely to happen if they graduate with lazy brains, lulled by boring classes, believing that some skill will set them up for life.

That was OK for me and most of you and generations of Americans. And, then.

Here’s our uncomfortable reality.

The time when a person could make one big move or job change in their lifetime and suffer successfully through the adjustments necessary to thrive are gone. 

The time when the end goal for educators was a 3R education — Reading, ’Riting, and ’Rithmatic? It’s as dead as a dodo. We know more. We travel widely. We communicate instantly. We can guess, but a computer’s there to tell us otherwise while handling a dozen other things for us. Our jobs lack permanence or retirement plans. Our work skills become obsolete almost as fast as we learn them.

In short, our expectations no longer match the once solid goals of our educational system. That train is out of the station. 

I can date the day I realized our world would be turned on its ear. It was 1987. I took out a $7,000 loan and bought a PS2 IBM computer with a DOS operating system. That day I also picked up a nearly incomprehensible manual 2-inches thick. Up until then, I’d expected to hold the same job, keep using the same skills, then retire on the government dime. After, I’d vegetate happily into old age just like my father and grandfather before me.

Back in 1987, that was the way we thought. We got our “education” and our job training. We worked and learned what we needed to progress in on the job, put in our time, and retired. 

Back in 1987, our school system was designed to prepare us to do exactly that. Since then? Change, confusion, and not many signs of clarity.

Thanks to the coronavirus, the process has degenerated. We’ve had to double down on technology, our teachers scrambling to learn new programs, parents trying their best to keep up, the kids eating it all up but not necessarily as the adults envisioned. Few have stepped back to consider how to recalibrate our entire educational system.

One who has, a K-12 school principal in Florida, said it best: that her school curriculum is designed to give its graduates a foundation for lifelong learning. 

That’s the goal. What does it mean? What’s the practical application? 

Our educators, like the Florida principal, have been slowly grappling with the fact that their graduates need more than skills (that will soon be obsolete) and knowledge (that will likely become trivia). 

Thus, while our educators and legislators are lost in a forest of changing ideas, needs, and conditions, we’re hearing multiple voices and multiple proposals resulting in gridlock, uncertainty, and confusion. 

Hopefully, out of this our taxpayer dollars will see a new system emerge, one producing graduates with strong core values, thinking minds, and an ability to adapt — in short, graduates prepared to launch into a life of learning and prosperity in our changing and unpredictable world.

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