Everyone talks about education’s problems now and back when. We react to things that have already happened. We are so caught up in the past and trying to understand the present that we fail to acknowledge major forces of change that make knowledge of where we are now of little value. We fail to recognize the new forces that have changed the way our minds can work and how we get, assimilate, and apply information. Most of us fail to acknowledge the fundamental differences that are empowering small groups of ‘youngsters’ in our societies. These newcomers are forming a new caste or strata overpowering the existing social class system. They are active building a future the average person fails to comprehend. As a way of connecting to this, think what has happened as miniaturization radically changed technology. Changes in the availability of knowledge and the ability to interact with others across the planet are creating a new upper caste or strata made up of those who gain access to information and interactive systems.
We label those forming this new strata digitals, or simply geeks. Most are under 35. These individuals have expanded skill sets and tool sets. They use their mastery of information and their ability to interact on a wide scale to power a future that is beyond common understanding. As a way of comprehending this, think of the thought processes necessary to design the code written to create massive multi-player on-line games and the parallel universes where they operate. Code, that easily transfers to new learning approaches and the application of knowledge. Code, now proven and available, that exposes most of our current education and application practices as incomplete.
These beings, our progeny, came out of the educational systems we think we know well. What we have failed to comprehend is that they jumped over the moribund and established limitations of our practices and tapped into new ways of learning and communicating. Ways that, if we are to keep up, demand that we learn new approaches and use vast resources for programming our brains. Change is hard. Thus, to the detriment of our future, most reject change, deny the power this new strata has, and remain focused on limited information. This majority may react as Luddites out of ignorance.
Out of my 52 years as an educator confounded by the limitations of the existing system, I have spent the last 10 years gaining an understanding of the elements that create this new strata. I am certain about these essential parts:
1) Parents who do not turn the job of educating their kids over to the state, but rather stay involved with the schools. Parents who go beyond what the schools have to offer by exploring the world with their child;
2) Teachers who understand that you cannot teach a child well whom you don’t know well. Teachers who test to help students, not tie anchors around their necks. Teachers who require the mastery of essential information.
3) Foundation-centered K-12 schools that require essential mastery of an interdisciplinary curriculum and teach the foundation skills necessary to function in each of ten or more disciplines.
4) Students who have taken advantage of the technological advances of the Information Age and The Interactive Age. Students who go through the looking glass (the computer) into dimensions filled with information and connected intelligences.
As an educator and parent, I understand these elements present in those populating this new caste or strata in societies. My wife and I, both educators, helped our kids move into this future. We made sure our children were with exceptional teachers. Knowing there were gaps in their schooling, we took our kids out of school when necessary and travelschooled. We know that time spent in tidal pools exploring and learning is of better quality than time looking at bottled creatures, or photographs and diagrams in texts. We know that time spent in the real world is richer and more ‘educational’ than time spent in warehouses removed from the world. Of course, to be able to do that, our focus had to be on our kids, not solely our work or our personal issues.
That brings up a tough problem parents have to solve. In this age of planned parenthood, children should be brought into the world when the parent(s) are ready to focus on them and put a priority on experiential learning where the family learns together. That conflicts with religious groups that urge early and continual breeding in order to increase the number of followers. That conflicts with those who do not want women to have control of their bodies. The planned parenthood idea is winning, but progress is slow. Certainly, a 5th element that seems common in the lives of kids moving toward the new strata is fact-based sex education and pregnancy protection.
Armed with readily accessible and verifiable information, bolstered by public education that has required their mastery of foundation skills, and able to communicate across the planet through interactive technologies, empowered individuals are gaining key positions in every aspect of world economic and social systems. These digitally literate individuals are creating a strata that renders our present class system which has evolved to provide separate and unequal privileges for those who control wealth and power, irrelevant. Wealth and power will shift to those who rise to key positions through access to information and interactive communication systems. We are seeing the rise of a new upper class. For more insights, read Vital Lies, The Irrelevance Of Our Schools In The Information Age.