Yes, there should be an economic aspect to schooling

Many folks are concerned that schools today are mostly about churning
out worker bees for uncaring corporations who are more than happy to chew up
employees and spit them out in favor of others, perhaps overseas, who are
cheaper. Like Mike
Parent, my guest blogger this week
, they are
worried about mission statements like that of the The New Jersey High School
Redesign Steering Committee
, which states that it is ‘working to build
public awareness and support for a more rigorous high school experience, one
that allows students to succeed in the workforce or in pursuing higher

I’m not one of those people. Although I, too, want my children to be happy,
creative, caring, self-directed, intellectually curious, and environmentally
aware, I also want them to be contributing members to society. And, if they
decide to challenge certain statuses quo, I want them to have the tools
to be able to do that successfully. I think that means preparing them to be
powerfully productive in the technology-suffused, globally-interconnected future
in which they’re going to live. If they can’t play, work, thrive, and influence others in that
world, they’re going to be marginalized, impotent outsiders.

So, with all due respect to Clay
, I see Did You
Know? 2.0
as a conversation starter for how the world is changing
around us but, like Karl Fisch,
I don’t see it as an overt call for preparing students solely for economic
competitiveness. Nor do I think it is fair to label William
Farren’s excellent Did You Ever Wonder? video
as a ‘vital
counterpoint’ to the issues in the Did You Know? video. I see no reason
why equipping students with 21st century skills is in opposition to preparing
them to be ecologically-responsible citizens. In fact, a strong argument could
be made that it is only by equipping our students with 21st century
skills that they will be in a position to solve the massive problems that we are
bestowing upon them

and Porras
note that we should be embracing the ‘genius of the and
rather than the ‘tyranny of the or.’ I agree. I will be preparing my
children to be productive 21st century citizens and employees. I will
be preparing my children to be environmentally-aware and
economically-productive. I am hoping – and, indeed, counting on – many others
doing the same.

One year ago:
multimedia textbooks: A strategic investment
and Online
multimedia textbooks: Follow-up

8 Responses to “Yes, there should be an economic aspect to schooling”

  1. Good post! I think you can have the best of both worlds. 21st century job skills like global competency, collaborative skills, and the ability to use technology to communicate can all be gained while at the same time providing a liberal arts education. If you combine those skills with the goals of teaching students to think critically, live humanely, lead effectively, and to seek the truth you can have it all. It is not an either / or game.

    Our world has many faults. Our world also has a tremendous amount of potential and an amazing amount of good will. Can’t we have it both? Competency and perspective from our graduates. 21st century skills and a sincere appreciation for human dignity and the rights of those around us. Capitalism’s main criticism is its focus on consumerism, productivity, and the amassing of wealth. But most of us know there is more to life than bling. How do public schools find the freedom to address the other side of life without blurring the line between Church and state.

  2. Charlie, this is probably a discussion for another post (or blog), but I’m not sure that a moral, purpose-driven life necessarily has to stem from religious beliefs. I know a lot of people who aren’t very religious who are very spiritual and/or know how to ‘address the other side of life,’ as you say.

  3. So, just what are the 21st century skills we should be teaching? Add your ideas to the wiki:

  4. Hi Scott,

    I’ll take the rap for the framing of Bill Farren’s “Did You Ever Wonder?” video when I promoted it on my blog. (Bill is guest-posting on Beyond School once a week for the next several weeks, starting this weekend, if you want to join that conversation.)

    As I tried to say in a response to Karl’s comment on that post, I know the video was not made to be an end-all statement of 21st c. education. But between the intent and the reception is a huge gulf, and I think the statistics of Chinese and Indian students compared to US students created a pointedly economic, competitive thrust to “Did You Know?” And I think it is indeed _received_ in primarily economic, competitive terms, intent notwithstanding.

    The absence of any mention of sustainability is what I allude to when I call “Did You Ever Wonder?” a “vital counterpoint” (and you know I’m an English teacher with a penchant for wordplay, which I confess can be a weakness when I write).

    You know by now, Scott, that I respect your ideas enough to borrow from them freely (remember, theft is the highest form of flattery). For “Did You Know?”, though, again, it’s a question of supplementing, of adding an omission, pointing to a blind spot, in my view.

    If piggybacking questions of sustainability on the success of “Did You Know?” is the way to help green _questions_ – or even consciousness – go viral in education, I’ll take it.

    (Another thing about blogging that is so dangerous is instanced by this comment: I’m writing it during lunch break before my next class comes in. Similarly, I wrote that post about Bill’s video as soon as he debuted it on our Project Global Cooling Ning. In both cases, I wrote under less than ideal circumstances. Thank goodness for comment thread that allow us to clarify.)

    P.S. Thanks for taking up for those of us who, though ex-religious, are still both good and ethically driven. And “spiritual.” I left Christianity after reading – studying – the Bible and Church history over many years as an adult. I feel I’m a better person and influence on others because of that.

  5. PS. I just read Charlie’s comment more closely, and it’s ambiguous. He may be asking how questions of meaning and spirit can be addressed in school out of _fear of offending_ the religious sensibilities of parents and students, rather than hinting he wants to proselytize.

    Why preachers get to straight out tell their version of truth to kids on Sundays, when they’re not nearly as well-read as teachers in general, but teachers are not allowed to be equally direct in the classroom is beyond me. Ironic, to say the least.

  6. Clay, I’ll agree with everything you said. How’s that? =)

    As we share on the wiki, I’ll also note that Did You Know? 2.0 was intentionally designed to minimize the us v. them aspects that many read into the original…

  7. For the record (I feel like a stuck one, too, since I’m repeating what I replied to Karl’s comment on my post), I share Did You Know? as much as anybody.

    As we say in the post, the hope is that Bill’s video extends the message. Both/and, as you suggest, instead of unnecessary disjunctions.

  8. Hi Scott: Thanks for writing about this.
    I totally agree with the message of your title. There should be an economic aspect to schooling. Precisely for that reason, we will need to provide students with the tools to understand and protect their environment. As I recently wrote on Clay Burell’s site, “The environment is not a minor factor of production but rather is an envelope containing, provisioning, and sustaining the entire economy.” (By the authors of Natural Capitalism).
    A significant amount of my video flows from this concept. From what I observe and read, it doesn’t seem like many schools’ curricula (including universities’) understand (or want to believe) the biological, economic or thermodynamic truths contained in that sentence. We talk about an economy as if it were divorced from its larger context—the environment. By turning on the TV today we will hear several instances of the word “economy” used as if it has no relation to the environment. We talk about what’s good for the economy, without considering the fact that what’s good for the planet is good for the economy.
    As I’ve stated on my blog, I understand the original intent and purpose of “DYK? 2.0”. My video response isn’t so much a critique of “DYK 2.0?”, as an amplification of the discussion in order to bring other important topics into the dialogue. I did feel that a significant thrust of “DYK? 2.0” had to do with factors related to economic competition (certainly points worth thinking about!). The two reports from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (The Intellectual and Policy Foundations of the 21st Century Skills Framework) and The National Center on Education and the Economy (Tough Choices or Tough Times) however, left much to be desired. Their thrust seems purely economic, aiming to create workers, while never mentioning the importance of the environment as a factor of economic, personal or social well-being.
    I don’t believe equipping students with 21st century skills (as defined in some of the reports mentioned above) like flexibility, cross-cultural skills, social skills, communication skills…is in opposition to preparing them to be ecologically-responsible citizens. Those are great skills to have. I do believe though, that reports published by those who want to influence policy should prominently include the need to educate about the importance of environmental well-being as a source of security, jobs, happiness, and health, among other things.
    Regards, Bill

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