Everyone realizes that the internet has changed the need for, and the basis of, education fundamentally. Teachers realise it and want to move on and, indeed, brave attempts are being made in many places, especially Finland. Parents will often recognise it in a vague sort of way . When it comes to schooling, parents want good grades, offers from top universities and qualifications that guarantee a lifelong upper-level income. When it comes to upgrading education, parents provide the resistance – largely because employers demand certificates as evidence of ingenuity.
Yes, the problem lies in the primitive and often useless ways in which people are hired. The heart of the matter is the presumed need by the hirer that s/he must be right every time. Judgments about people for even simple things like mortgages are notoriously bad. The Great Financial Crisis demonstrated that. So judgments about new employees are never going to be 100% successful. In fact, if they are 75% successful you are doing exceptionally well. The success rate would be improved if a fairly simple set of rules were applied to hires – something we will discuss in a later DP.
For now we’ll put the cart before the horse and talk about upgrading education – a simple way to start the ball rolling. What do we want from our young when they become employable? I suggest there are three things that matter most. First the accessing, qualifying, using and presenting of data and information in a way that improves decision making. How to use the world’s knowledge is a prerequisite to everything we do. Second, the ability to interpret what data is telling us. You can argue that that is covered by the ‘using’ in point 1. It is important enough to merit a point of its own. Interpretation is an art as well as a science. Science increasingly is done by the computer.
The art remains within our brains at least for the foreseeable future. Every scientific robotic, sensing experiment done at present confirms that science has not yet mastered common sense. It will do so one day but will it ever compete with human intransigence and whim? Who knows? For the time being creativity remains a human characteristic. The world knows this and is equipping itself to become – and is already becoming – more creative. Our young have to keep ahead of science if humans are to remain in charge.
The third essential is to be able to communicate. Businesses talk much about communication but generally fail to communicate their thoughts on the subject and seldom turn them into action. Communication starts with reading the person you are trying to communicate with. If you get that wrong all the rest of your communication effort will fail. Much of the present communications training is based on a false proposition – that if you have a loaded kalashnikov rifle pointed at your audience they will listen. This is correct, but the assumption that you can face an audience with a rifle is not.
Communication is seduction. People who don’t realise that don’t communicate.
My suggested first step in the right direction of these three essentials is that every child from the age of five onwards should be given one project a week, either on their own or in a small team. The project should consist of teaching their teachers and their parents about something. Very young children will have very simple projects to start with. When children get older that can take on the task of explaining to their elders the causes of and consequences of the Napoleonic wars or how electricity storage technology can use surplus tankers plying the oceans without cargo.
Teaching the teachers and parents is a simple but essential step in equipping the young to handle, mould, create and moderate a world of infinite possibilities. The benefits of it are that the young will learn to find and assess information. That they will then discover how to analyse and interpret what they have discovered to make sense of a decision that must be made. They will then present (sell) this information to the people they regard as the dumbest in their lives. Their handling, selling and presentation skills will blossom as a result of this.
It’s not rocket science. It is doable.
Let’s do to now.