Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Education: New Rules



Lifelong learning is a topic close to my heart. I'm very frustrated that mainstream education is only provided for the young rather than for every age. That was appropriate in the last century. Not this. It supports a culture where if you don't take your opportunities when you're young then you miss out.

So I'm interested in the discussion I found in the New York Times Sunday Review titled New Rules. This article makes a strong argument for the growing need for lifelong learning that I haven't heard put so well before.

The basic idea is that technological advances are, year on year, making less skilled jobs obsolete. So we must compete for the higher skilled jobs. So those who have invested the most in education generally out compete those with the least.

The problem is that our educational systems aren't built to train people for such regular change. They ignore lifelong learning and instead focus on providing a good start. That's great but since skills go out of demand so quickly and that's only going to accelerate we need to focus on educational systems that help people adapt throughout their life.

To end I'd like to look at it another way. What I see is the evolution of our world right before our eyes. Those who are fittest thrive. Those who aren't fall by the wayside. The capitalist system, in my view, matches the principles behind our own evolution and so it follows that the survival follows the same principles too.

That means quoting the famous Darwin line "It's not the fittest, but the most able to adapt that survive". So I simply note that our current system tries to produce the fittest employees for the current or near future market. Given how quickly things change it's pot luck whether the skills you gained will support you as the needs of the workplace do.

More appropriate now is easy access to the tools to adapt your skills to be relevant for each challenge you face. Reducing the pressure on getting it right before you've even done a days work. Spreading the pressure out across your life. That means an infrastructure that helps you fix any shortcomings you need to fix and take new directions, instead of trying to be perfect on the first attempt with little or no opportunity to fix problems or change direction later on.


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