"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
-George Bernard Shaw
-George Bernard Shaw
The education system is no longer preparing students for the economy.
We are in a critical moment in history. A moment unlike any other. A moment when the institutions of our society have all but exhausted their ability to serve the American people as they once did.
Now it is time to pick up the pieces and start rebuilding.
It is somewhat common knowledge that the education system in this country is on its way out. Rather than discussing ideas for education reform, Action Horizon Institute is more interested in taking action by serving the 5.6 million Americans between ages 16-24 who are neither working nor enrolled in school.
In 2007, I was preparing to graduate from college with an arts degree. It was as though I was standing at the end of a hallway surrounded by locked doors. I thought to myself, “What do I do now?”. I dropped out of college for 18 months with only two credits remaining to finish my undergraduate degree. I didn’t want to finish because I had been in college for four years and I had no jobs lined up, no skills that people would pay me for, no marketability, and no future. Not finishing seemed, at the time, much better than graduating and having everyone ask and expect me to have a certain type of job and become a certain type of person. I did finish, by the way.
Throughout the country, we have universities that don’t provide the education they promise to their students, but the students are still responsible to pay back the student loans for the rest of their lives. Schools tell us they will grant us access to the outside world after graduation, but many graduates find themselves in a worse financial situation than when they began school, and without marketable skills to compete in today’s economy it leaves many unable to support to themselves.
What happens when you have a large group of people who are being overlooked, ignored, neglected, and excluded from having access to opportunity?
Harvard’s Clay Christensen, author of the Innovator’s Dilemma, would say these incumbent institutions are in a place where they must decide whether to assume the risk associated with reaching out to serve new markets, or to continue with their existing model which is something like “ignore any market that does not return a profit on initial investment”. Christensen says for the organizations who are too slow to adapt or they didn’t realize it was even happening will often miss their chance to course correct. By the time they try to innovate themselves their industry will likely be close to getting taken over. The longstanding institution slowly loses market share similar to how the post office lost the battle to email.
A few of the talking points below list specific events and opportunities which are taking place on a daily basis, and this list should start to bring some clarity for the students.
I was told the key to success was to work hard in school and get a college education. That was the only purpose of life. The reason we woke up in the morning, the reason we memorized phrases and formulas, and the reason we were supposed to act a certain way. It was all about college. The American education system had this prestige at one point because it allowed any student, regardless of race or religion, opportunity. A hard-working student from the poor neighborhood on the outskirts of town would be able to compete against her peers for the best grades. If the performance was good enough, the student would receive the chance to attend prestigious universities. These universities were channels that led to secure jobs in the economy. Therefore, a low class American would become socially-mobile and able to climb the ladder of success all thanks to her education.
The value of a college degree today, however, holds different value. It does not matter if you want to become a lawyer, doctor, or work in finance. These three examples were once among the highest paid, elite occupations in this country.
Today, the medical, legal, and financial industries are adapting new technology which, among other things, automates jobs. That leaves each industry with fewer jobs available. This causes the level of competition to increase in each job market. The problem is compounded by the increase in students pursuing degrees in each of those markets.
If medical doctors, lawyers, and traders are unable to find work, I don’t expect my sociology degree to do much.
Eventually, the jobs of the current economy will be completely absorbed by the new economy. We will run into major problems at this point because 1) more people than ever will be competing for the same employment opportunities, and 2) the education system will not have updated its model yet.
As a longstanding incumbent institution, higher education is predictably resistant to adopting new technologies, new ways of doing things, and allowing anyone to “tread on their turf” who is not a tenured professor. If you have the unfortunate luck of working or attending one of these outdated institutions you should know that these universities are taking millions and millions of dollars from students who think they will be given an education that allows them to succeed in the world. Little do these students know, is that by the time they graduate in 4-6 years, the jobs they went to school for will no longer exist.
If 6 million of us work towards a common goal, even if only for a moment, I know whatever we do will be incredible.
You will create value within your local community.
You will build businesses that employ Americans for the next 100+ years.
You will build the foundation of our new economy.
You will shape the future of America.
The White House is helping Americans pay for up to two years of college, but the problem is not solved by money – it’s solved by rethinking the way we approach learning as a whole.