What did you learn in school today?
Many times we ask children a variation of this question. Sometimes we ask: what did you do in school today. Far too frequently the answer is “nothing”. There is, of course, a wide range of reasons for this answer. The most obvious is that the child in fact did not learn anything or at least not anything that she can articulate. Or the truth might be that what was done or learned just takes too much energy to talk about so he won’t. The really sad truth is that much of what she learned in school today is pretty useless for tomorrow. And that is what is so scary because the stakes are so high.
I think it is a condition of the human nature that when we don’t know what to do about something we look for concrete measurements to make us think we are progressing or not. And so in order to improve education we started to measure everything with tests. We know based on incoming college freshmen testing that these young adults are no better prepared for college today than they were before all the testing.
So what should we be teaching kids in schools if not algebra II? First of all, most of today’s students will wind up in jobs that haven’t even been invented yet. So any notion of preparing children for specific jobs doesn’t really make sense. Continually we ignore what employers tell us they need in good employees whether we are talking about retail sales, health care, cyber sleuthing or space travel. We need people who can solve problems. Doesn’t matter what kind of problem. Does the person have a strategy for solving any problem? As in define the problem, identify the information needed, know how to find the missing information, make an informed decision after weighing all the consequences that one is aware of at this time.
Humans need to learn self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making. Yet how many of these skills do we learn in school. Not too many because the results can’t be measured by coloring in little bubbles on a scan sheet or clicking on a computer screen button. These are hugely difficult skills to learn and just as difficult to teach. Yet their value to us as individuals is so much more important than all the “stuff” we memorize in school. Think about this, you can’t Google self-awareness. Oh you can, but the result you get back probably won’t help you when you try to figure out how to lead a fulfilling life. And the way things are going, you won’t be learning that in school today either.