The Worst of Both Worlds – yet another update

The vaguely leftish Ken Robinson acolytes can occasionally generate a few eye-rolls (and giggles), but for pure, industrial-strength edudrivel, you can’t go past the economic instrumentalists.

The World Economic Forum has copious form in that elusive mix of condescension and ignorance which marks out the truly teeth-grinding education articles, and their latest effusion is a fine example of the genre.

We have the standard “no-one can be sure about the future” caveat…

While we can’t predict exactly what our workforce’s needs will be…

…followed in quick succession by the usual claims of clairvoyance:

Some of the topics we teach today will no longer be essential in the 2030s…

We are…failing to adequately prepare the next generation for the future…

Our schools should teach the curriculum of the future…

To prepare all students with the creative, collaborative and digital problem-solving skills of the future…

Err…what was that bit about creativity ‘n’ collaboration ‘n’ problem-solving ‘n’ all that? I thought this was an article about including computer science in the curriculum? Well, apparently:

Learning computer science encourages creativity, problem-solving, ethics and collaboration…

Ah, I see. What a shame no other subject does that.

There is plenty more to savour in this exquisitely awful piece: adducing a survey of “what subjects kids enjoy” to underline a point about what kids should be learning (a moderately intelligent six-year-old could spot the problem with this), trotting out vague terms like “computational thinking” and “digital skills” without any attempt to explain them, and much more. But perhaps the most beautifully ironic aspect of the article is the lament about schools not having changed their core curriculum in 100 years:

Yet, in most schools you visit in 2018, you see teachers teaching the exact same subject matter as they taught in 1918: reading, writing, math, science, history and foreign languages. Debates about the future of education centre on changing how we teach…but there is almost no debate about changing what we teach.

Let’s just take a step back for a moment.

In which period of human history has there been the most dramatic, explosive growth in technology (not to mention material prosperity)? That would be roughly between 1918 and 2018.

Who has been responsible for that growth in technology and prosperity?

Those people who were given a grounding in exactly the foundational knowledge referred to so dismissively in the WEF article. Increasingly, and laudably, that foundational knowledge has become available to a far wider range of people, male and female, from all classes, races and nations. And this, of course, has given an added boost to the aforementioned growth.

Should this not tell us something?

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4 thoughts on “The Worst of Both Worlds – yet another update

  1. I’m really scratching my head about these claims of “jobs that don’t exist yet” and how the curriculum somehow leaves this out. There’s a really easy way that researchers could test this hypothesis – pick out three eras in the 20th century, list the innovations and job changes that occurred during that time, analyse the school curriculum from around 20 years before each one, as well as school inspection reports during that time, and establish whether there was a mismatch or not.

    Were the baby boomers held back by their 1960s school education as computer technology made its long march through their working lives? Let’s see … errrrrmmmm … wow, turns out they weren’t! Or maybe they were, but if so prove to me how this occurred, and maybe then I’ll listen to whoever wants to spout on about the future.

    You probably get the impression that I haven’t heard this argument being used to support such claims, ever!

    And by the way, I’m firmly on the left but totally agnostic re Ken Robinson. In the world of academia he doesn’t carry much clout. My thesis supervisor was fairly derisive of him during our last conversation, and he is probably more left than I am.

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  2. …There’s a really easy way that researchers could test this hypothesis – pick out three eras in the 20th century, list the innovations and job changes that occurred during that time, analyse the school curriculum from around 20 years before each one, as well as school inspection reports during that time, and establish whether there was a mismatch or not…

    Excellent idea – not that any Ed academics I know of would be keen to undertake such research!

    …And by the way, I’m firmly on the left but totally agnostic re Ken Robinson. In the world of academia he doesn’t carry much clout…

    That doesn’t surprise me. He seems to be about 95% celebrity, 5% academic these days (at a conservative estimate).

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