But Seriously, Who Is Most Likely to Succeed?

October 17, 2016
Year On TeamFuture of Work

Original post by Jim Paterson

Two experts concerned about the future of education have recently suggested that high schools are focusing too much on college preparatory efforts and “leaving the vast majority of kids ill-prepared for career or life.”

Ted Dintersmith, a Stanford-trained engineer and venture capitalist, and Tony Wagner, an expert in residence at the Harvard Innovation Lab and a senior research fellow at the Learning Policy Institute, have co-authored the book “Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era” in which they argue that our current process of promoting and encouraging students to  attend the highest ranking school possible is  misguided and off the mark. 

Dintersmith and Wagner suggest our society finds college to be the “gateway to the American dream” and that good colleges result in better people with better jobs. Not having college makes a young person immediately a second-class citizen, they say. That thinking dominates K-12 schools, the pair suggests in an article published on MarketWatch.

“But here’s the problem. The content our kids study to become ‘college ready’ is largely useless in careers or life. We push them to perform tasks in the curriculum to make it easy to rank order them for college placement. This all-consuming focus leaves little time for learning the competencies needed for career or citizenship. Even worse, the majority of kids who trust our advice to pursue college are getting disappointing outcomes.”

The two give examples of where the educational system focuses on information that isn’t practical and doesn’t teach key concepts.

“What if all kids – not just those in career and technical education – learned electricity by taking apart fuse boxes, helping a master electrician wire a house and building a wind turbine to produce electricity for the local grid?” the two ask. “This learning is valuable to everyone, whether they become master electricians, Ph.D. research scientists or normal adults coping with home electrical issues.”

Dintersmith and Wagner ask why students are drilling down to low-level procedures in math that could be accomplished on a cell phone, when they could be learning math with “real career value” –statistics, data analytics, estimation, math modeling, algorithm development, financial literacy, social media optimization and computer programming.

They say even in English classes, students spend hours memorizing parts of speech and approaches necessary for college papers and analysis when those activities don’t help them organize their thoughts or write well or put together an oral presentation.

They go on to claim that only a quarter of students attending college get a degree and “attractive jobs.” Nearly half drop out and a third end up unemployed or under-employed. “Meanwhile, millions of high-quality jobs in our country go unfilled as our schools churn out ‘college-ready’ kids with no employable skills,” the two say.

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