Posted by: crudbasher | August 23, 2011

What Does It Mean To Be Educated?

Robin Cangie wrote an interesting blog post about Peter Thiel. Thiel is the Internet Investor who is sponsoring 20 people under 20 to drop out of college and start businesses. It’s an interesting idea that may be disruptive to the traditional college model.

What caught my eye in Robin’s excellent post is this section:

And so we must ask ourselves, what does it mean to be educated? If education means churning out obedient, unthinking, indebted consumers, then we’ve done very well. But if it means anything – anything at all – more than that, we have failed massively.

(cc) Robert Scoble

I have said for some time that the purpose of school is to create standardized factory workers. The current economic times are an indication that the economy is changing. Many people who have been laid off are factory workers. The bad news is those jobs might not be coming back. Robots are now able to take more and more factory jobs at a price that a human can’t beat. The story a few weeks back about Foxconn in China wanting to replace their workforce with a million robots by 2014 is the writing on the wall.

So here is the problem. We are about to undergo a fundamental transformation of the economy. If China finds robots cheaper than their citizens who really make almost nothing, then factories everywhere are going to clean house. Once you get robots on the line, then you can bring the factories back home because transportation overtakes labor as your biggest cost. Robots will then move into construction, garbage collection, landscaping and all sorts of service fields.

What we are going to see is the reverse of the Industrial Revolution. That took millions of people off the farms and put them into the factories. Schools made that possible. Now we are going to have millions of people displaced by robots and go… where?

That’s the problem. These people have to be retrained for something else. We are about to enter an age where more people will need to be educated than at any other time in world history. Our college system doesn’t have even close to the capacity to handle the flood. Not only that, but these people won’t be fresh out of high school. They will be of all different ages and experiences. So what do we do?

If we rely on the current college system, prices will really skyrocket (supply vs demand) and we will have a large and permanent unemployed segment of the country.

What needs to happen is the next evolution of learning. Each person will have to have a personal learning plan tailored to them. They won’t need a degree as much as they need skills. Most importantly, we will have to redefine what it means to be educated. The new definition is: A person who has been trained in such a way to maximize their innate abilities and to be able to adapt to circumstances.

I think the market will demand a new education method to make this happen.

    • I’m not disagreeing with the problems in higher education that Thiel has pointed out. But to treat all of this as a bubble, on par with housing or high technology, is to not only misunderstand the problem but also to contribute to an impoverished, commoditized view of education that values a monetary return-on-investment over intellectual cultivation, that treats education as a resource, not unlike wood or oil, to be exploited and profited from, rather than a vital ingredient of a healthy society.

      And so we must ask ourselves, what does it mean to be educated? If education means churning out obedient, unthinking, indebted consumers, then we’ve done very well. But if it means anything – anything at all – more than that, we have failed massively.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. This is an excellent post with lots of food for thought.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: