World Futures: Education Revisited – Part Three


Los Alamos World Futures Institute

Welcome to 2020 and part three of this series. Since the year is 2020, we should all have perfect vision of education, be able to optimize it and ensure happiness for the 55 million students enrolled in the United States primary and secondary school systems.

Yet from performance figures gathered about our schools, we know our vision is not 2020.

In part one of this series it was stated that the education system is populated by school administration, classroom teachers, on-line teachers, class and lesson creators, students, parents, politicians, publishers, professors of education, school workers, and bureaucratic organizations.

Also in part one it was shown from a crude model that teacher salaries make up only 26 percent of the cost of the school system. In part two we looked at using computers and communications technology to migrate to on-line learning. Again using a casual model, it was “shown” that $40 billion could be saved annually by doing away with books and simply relying on electronic tablets.

Of course, this would have a major effect on the publishing industry while perhaps generating new opportunities in computer content and distribution development. The reality is that making changes in the education system affects millions of people outside of the direct teaching activity.

In the list above we noted school administrators, politicians, publishers, school workers, and other bureaucratic organizations. Obviously, every school district, the organization that operates and controls the local system, is needed to run the “business.” Besides ensuring discipline and order, it pays the bills; ensures workers, including teachers, are compensated; hires contractors as needed; complies with local, state, and federal laws and regulations; and answers to the local population.

The local population judges the administration through the local politicians and perhaps a level above local. Obviously, the school district administrator manages the internal school district work force but he or she must answer to a higher authority. In my less than 2020 view this is a population of politicians and the bureaucracies they create. These politicians, however, must embrace an array of activities much larger than  simply the school system and its content.

For example, assume that the population is enraptured by converting to a computer-based (distance learning) system. This would affect the teachers, the students, the school workers, the publishers and demand the creation of a centrally based computer hub. It would be a revolution.

Do the politicians have the intellect to understand the revolution not just on the educational operational system but on all of the external entities that would be affected? This suggests that we should proceed with caution, but what is the road map, vision and ultimate goal?

Historically primary and secondary education has centered on reading, writing, and arithmetic, the central tools everyone must possess to learn everything else. One might agree these three things are not needed to learn the basics and experience the stress of competitive sports. The list of examples can go one and on.

But, for example, how can you explore the concepts and ideas in classical literature if you cannot read it? Or how can you balance your checkbook or keep track of your debit card balance if you cannot add and subtract? Obviously, you can check the balance on your smart phone, but can you verify the accuracy?

The purpose of education is to prepare the students to be members of society and, in the United States, pursue happiness. This means that there is a necessary curriculum that, theoretically, could be determined by the national Secretary of Education or the state Secretary of Education or on and on. But to protect the rights of the people, it must be approved by the proper legislative body, elected leader we think of as politicians.

Suppose that a giant committee of all the professors of education was formed and charged with designing the education system of the future. They could evaluate what will be needed 18 years from now, the graduation date of today’s newborns and determine the mechanism for transition and achievement. But could they build the plan for an evolving structure that considers the costs involved and its effect on the other parts of society. And then back it goes to the politicians.

There is no simple answer to the future. It is clear, however, that all of us must be involved and put ideas forward to ensure the right direction of education in the future at a fair and equitable cost that we can afford.

In the list of people involved in education, students and parents were included. What are their roles?

Til next time…

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