Citing evidence of low levels of employer satisfaction, a new study by the non-profit Lincoln Organization indicates that our nation’s public schools are failing to adequately prepare graduates for jobs that don’t exist yet. “We are not equipping our students to compete in an increasingly changing global workplace,” says Steven Joyce, lead researcher on the study. “The jobs of tomorrow are going to require skills we haven’t even thought of, and it’s the job of our schools to teach those skills.”
Experts cite the advance of technology as evidence of how quickly the job market is changing. “When I was in high school, computers didn’t even exist,” says software CEO Jane Davis. “Nothing could have prepared me for the new fields I would dominate using the problem solving skills I picked up in public school classes like math and English.”
Education specialist Aaron Katz believes our schools need to look to business leaders as models. “Look at Steve Jobs,” says Katz. “He had no idea about the kinds of computers he would invent back when he was in public high school, learning the skills to run a company by taking traditional book-based courses. We need to ask ourselves — how could our schools have better prepared Steve Jobs for the types of jobs he would ultimately create?”
“Our goal,” continues Katz, “should be to insure that all students graduate with a strong background in the most important industries of twenty years from now.”
As to how best to do this, experts are divided, but most generally emphasize the teaching of so-called “21st Century Learning Skills.” However, one local school has taken things a step further. Citing mounting evidence that knowing what’s going to happen ahead of time can make you rich and powerful and sometimes affect the space-time continuum, Rexford High School in Eaton, New Hampshire has pledged to focus on equipping graduates not with 21st Century skills, but with 22nd Century skills.
“We just figured, why prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow, when we could prepare them for the jobs of next century? Isn’t that way smarter? And just about as easy to predict?” asks district superintendent Rae Matthews. “After all, why get our students ready for jobs that are just going to be obsolete right around the time they’ll want to retire, but can’t — because the government has yanked away Social Security?”
“The most important thing, ” says Matthews. “Is having a curriculum that’s based wholly on a shifting marketplace.”
“After all, we don’t want students dabbling in liberal arts courses with no easily identifiable practical value at a place like Reed College.”