Beyond “preparing our kids for 21st-century jobs”
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Beyond “preparing our kids for 21st-century jobs”

Beyond “preparing our kids for 21st-century jobs”

Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.
–John Dewey,” My Pedagogic Creed

Liberal Education is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. A liberal education helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings. …Today, a liberal education usually includes a general education curriculum that provides broad learning in multiple disciplines and ways of knowing, along with more in-depth study in a major.

–American Association of Colleges and Universities,” What is Liberal Education?

It is long past time to do away with sloganeering about “preparing our kids for 21st-century jobs.”

This cliché, and others like it, contributes to a narrative that cheapens the work of educators and shrinks the province of education to something that is done purely “in preparation” for something more “real,” more substantial or meaningful – i.e., a job. But it is a colossal mistake to think and speak about K-16 education as though it were nothing more than extended job-training.

If we give students a liberal education aimed at educating their whole selves, building their foundational and critical literacy, increasing their access to and understanding of the world of ideas and art, and helping them develop their ability to understand and think about complex issues in and across academic disciplines, then we will have given them the best “vocational” education possible: students with excellent verbal and quantitative skills have the economic and social worlds wide open to them. They gain access to coveted internships and jobs, opportunities for studying and working overseas, and a stronger political voice.

Education – and therefore schooling, which is institutionalized education – is first and foremost about the pursuit of understanding. It is not about job-training. Job-training happens primarily on the job – but to give students access to rewarding and fulfilling work, and to prepare them to have as wide a choice of work as possible, the best preparation is a strong liberal education.

Ed. note: This post originally appeared on Wide Awake Minds.

15 Comments
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    Posted at 18:04h, 22 July Reply

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  • kdwashburn
    Posted at 21:43h, 22 July Reply

    Thought-provoking! Beyond “preparing our kids for 21st-century jobs”: http://is.gd/1I2JW #education

  • Jason Flom
    Posted at 21:49h, 22 July Reply

    "Beyond ‘preparing our kids for 21st-century jobs’" | Great new post on Eco of Ed by @rmccarl http://bit.ly/11nqOw

  • brendasherry
    Posted at 21:59h, 22 July Reply

    RT @kdwashburn: Thought-provoking! Beyond “preparing our kids for 21st-century jobs”: http://is.gd/1I2JW #education

  • Nancy White
    Posted at 21:59h, 22 July Reply

    RT @kdwashburn: Thought-provoking! Beyond “preparing our kids for 21st-century jobs”: http://is.gd/1I2JW #education I like this!

  • Nancy White
    Posted at 22:02h, 22 July Reply

    “Education is first and foremost about the pursuit of understanding.” From http://bit.ly/11nqOw recommended by @kdwashburn

  • Kathy Kaldenberg
    Posted at 22:09h, 22 July Reply

    RT @NancyW:RT @kdwashburn: Thought-provoking! Beyond “preparing our kids for 21st-century jobs”: http://is.gd/1I2JW #education I like this!

  • marklipton
    Posted at 22:24h, 22 July Reply

    RT @brendasherry @kdwashburn: “preparing kids for 21st-century jobs”: http://is.gd/1I2JW #education

  • TweetMeme Lifestyle
    Posted at 22:51h, 22 July Reply

    Beyond “preparing our kids for 21st-century jobs”|Ecology of Education http://is.gd/1I2JW (via @kdwashburn)

  • Maya Frost
    Posted at 17:20h, 23 July Reply

    I understand the value of a liberal arts education–I have one myself and so do my four daughters. However, a liberal arts education ALONE does not prepare students for life in the Real World which so often requires something called a job. 😉 Just ask any unemployed liberal arts grad–or those working in retail jobs they hate.

    The trick is to mix the liberal arts education with practical skills and relevant experience, and this is where things tend to fall apart.
    Being able to write a great paper about 20th century poetry: wonderful.
    Being able to write a great cover letter and resume that gets an interview: wonderful AND helpful.
    Being able to dazzle the interviewer with one's critical thinking skills AND ability
    to describe meaningful experiences that are relevant to the job: priceless.

    I have no problem whatsoever using the “preparing for the 21st-century global economy” tag line–in fact, I think it's critical that all students, whether they get a liberal arts degree or not, recognize the need to consider how they may or may not be developing the skills that will allow them to seize their most thrilling and fulfilling opportunities in the future.

    Cheers,
    Maya

  • bill farren
    Posted at 12:41h, 25 July Reply

    Thanks for this post. It amazes me how schools are always preparing students for the future while they seem ignore the present. The passive stance that most schools promote seems to ignore the fact that students–even younger ones–can be effecting change in their world right now. Not only is getting involved in real issues a great learning approach, it's probably a lot more interesting than flipping pages in a textbook.
    I look forward to reading your book when it's ready. Feel free to add me to your mailing list, if you have one.

  • bill farren
    Posted at 19:41h, 25 July Reply

    Thanks for this post. It amazes me how schools are always preparing students for the future while they seem ignore the present. The passive stance that most schools promote seems to ignore the fact that students–even younger ones–can be effecting change in their world right now. Not only is getting involved in real issues a great learning approach, it's probably a lot more interesting than flipping pages in a textbook.
    I look forward to reading your book when it's ready. Feel free to add me to your mailing list, if you have one.

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