5 QUESTIONS TO ASK ABOUT 21ST CENTURY EDUCATION

High-tech assumption for answering the questions:

Technology, efficiencies, and communication are exponentially more insistent. Robotic assembly lines, office computing, virtual staff, to name a few, are eliminating tens of millions of manual labor jobs. Since 2000, computers have become a billion times more powerful, a fraction of the cost, and soon will be competing with humans for 'thought work' jobs. So, what human skills will be in demand 15 or 20 years from now when the machines are tens of millions of times more cost effective at performing than humans?

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QUESTIONS:

1. What is the educational mission of 21st century America? How you envision the role of education in shaping the future of America is a telling indicator of your core beliefs, philosophies, economic theories, values, morals, and ethics.

Because the world is changing faster and more complexly than at any time in human history, the security and prosperity of 21st century America will depend, like never before, on how well it educates its children.

2. What does your forecast of the economy-in the 5 to 20 years, particularly its human skills requirements-tell you about what our educational priorities should be today? Obviously there will be ever fewer opportunities for human beings who can only perform "brawn-manual labor, remember factoids, or perform routine intellectual functions. What should children be learning today that would make their future employment opportunities less vulnerable to becoming obsolete as the machines continue to advance?

3. What does your forecast of the role of technology in human learning 5 to 20 years from now tell you about what our educational priorities should be today? What should today's students learn in order to be ready for a world in which virtually everything known about everything known is instantly available through inexpensive mobile devices? What facts should they remember? What mental skills must they have when these same devices will be able to coach them, in real-time, through learning to perform virtually any task they are challenged by? Given the coming ubiquity of this on-demand learning support power, what should we most be 'putting into' students and what should we most be 'drawing out' of them? What must they know and be able to do in order to be ready to succeed in their futures?

4. What does the Nation's Report Card (NAEP) tell us about the state of American education and the performance of our students?

  • Percent of 8th grade students below Math proficiency: 65%
  • Percent of 8th grade students below Reading proficiency: 67%
  • Percent of 8th grade students below Writing proficiency: 73%

What does it mean that most of our students are chronically deficient in the skills most critically important for success in life? Are these numbers just the aggregates of imprecise and unreliable tests? If they are anywhere close to depicting the performance of our students, do you think our student's chronic deficiencies reflects some insufficiency in their abilities to learn or, rather, in our educational system's priorities and practices?

5. If it is obvious we need a 21st century, educational curriculum and new standards for student achievement, should American states adopt and implement literacy and common core standards? This requires a comprehensive mind-shift in education of

  • (1) Embracing universal literacy and language, birth to eight years
  • (2) Decreeing common standards in all subject areas, across all states
  • (3) Recruiting and preparing top talent-teachers into the education field
  • (4) Supporting and advancing teacher professional knowledge and skill
  • (5) Using data to drive student and classroom instruction
  • (6) Incorporating flipped classrooms into practice
  • (7) Adopting the wide breadth of technology early and in every classroom.

Lifelong learning is right here, right now-whether you are five years old or one hundred years old. We can't escape it, nor can America. The consequences of the current state of educational affairs will doom "the land of milk and honey. There is no going back. Other countries (OECD) get it; they are surpassing the good ole USA in educating their young people-better preparing their "human capital with 21st century skills to become lifelong learners, to participate in the workforce, to contribute to generating GDP, and to live happier lives. America spends more per individual student on education than any other country. But, is America getting a good rate of return?