Two Future Trends

Well it was blazing when I got here…

I’m settled in my warm hotel room, only steps from a blazing fire in the lobby.  OK, it isn’t that cold outside — 90f in Burlington, Vermont.  But the angle of the sun and a percistent chill in the air tells me that I’m definately in a different latitude.

I’m often amazed at what I get when I type things like future in Flickr’s search box. [Image ((Jack. “Looking to the Future.” 5150fantast’s Flickr Photostream. 13 June 2007. 19 Oct 2008 <>. ))]

Glancing through my aggregator I discovered the Executive summary of the World Future Society’s Annual Outlook Report — Top 10 Forecasts for 2009 and Beyond.  I won’t go through all of them, except to say, “Careful what you say, no need to renew your drivers license, and Did you sneeze?”

Two of the forecasts struck me, as an educator.  Number four says, “Careers, and the college majors for preparing for them, are becoming more specialized.”  The article goes on to say,

An increase in unusual college majors may foretell the growth of unique new career specialties. Instead of simply majoring in business, more students are beginning to explore niche majors such as sustainable business, strategic intelligence, and entrepreneurship. Other unusual majors that are capturing students’ imaginations: neuroscience and nanotechnology, computer and digital forensics, and comic book art. Scoff not: The market for comic books and graphic novels in the United States has grown 12% since 2006.

In an age when we parents say, “Oh, she’s just 22, she’s too young to know what she wants to do,” it appears that knowing exactly what you want to do at 22, or 18, or 16, may be what our children will need.  It’s my belief that our relentless focus on the basics, have helped to produce a generation of students who have few real passions, beyond the artificial targets of their personal information experiences.

What might schools look like that task themselves with graduating students with passions instead of just transcripts?

The second forecast that struck me is actually quite similar.  Number six says that, “professional knowledge will become obsolete almost as quickly as it’s acquired.”

Most professions will require continuous instruction and retraining. Rapid changes in the job market and work-related technologies will necessitate job education for almost every worker. At any given moment, a substantial portion of the labor force will be in job retraining programs.

Personally, I’m not so sure that education, at least as we typically think about it, will intrude quite so much into our everyday lives.  However, I have no doubts that we will be learning, unlearning, and relearning for much, if not all of our days.  I’m not sure that we will spend so much time being retrained, as making a little bit of learning a part of every day’s experiences.

What do schools look like, who task themselves with graduating students who have taken on learning as part of the lifestyle — learning lifestyle.

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8 thoughts on “Two Future Trends”

  1. I never really could decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was good with computers so I settled on engineering (well that changed obviously :). It amazed me the number of my fellow students that had no plan on being an engineer. They wanted an engineering degree to prove 1)They were smart enough to do it & 2)That they could problem solve. The industry of engineering has accepted its limitations, and has focused on lifelong learning. Not necessarily by workshops and certifications (although those are plentiful), but by allowing and respecting the creative growth of their employees.

    On a second note, as a graduate student I have a completely different view of school. I was never an exceptional student, I never really tested well and was not at the top of my class, but I was a hard worker and LOVED projects. Getting through my undergraduate degree was one of the hardest things I have ever lived through. And although graduate school is definitely more challenging, I love it! I look forward to class and classwork. I have had hardly an exams, mostly final papers and projects, and everything I am studying directly relates to my career.

    Now is this because it is specialized and not general? Or is this because it directly relates to my interest? I think a little bit of both. But at the heart of all of these issues is doing and studying what you are interested in, but accepting that it will evolve as you do.

    So, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, I wish all education was like grad school 🙂

  2. Fortunately, there are a lot of educators, parents, and leaders who have been asking these questions.

    You’ll find them in diverse settings – special programs within schools, alternative private schools, homeschool communities, even Girl Scouts USA – who are finding ways to encourage children to learn for the sake of learning, to discover their passions, and to take actions on the issues they truly care about.

    You ask what schools would look like if they truly wanted to inspire passionate life-long learners, and I’m suggesting that at this time, you’ll mostly find these outside of traditional school settings.

  3. I really enjoyed this blog. The two points that you brought up about the included link really caught my eye, putting strong emphasis on the aspect you discussed about passion. I think that in today’s society passion is overlooked in education. Most of those people with such strong passion seem to be hidden to me. Believing in myself as being one of those passionate people, I feel as though I have almost too much ambition and passion for my own good. Which in contradiction is never really a bad thing.
    I would agree with Ms. Foyt on the subject in saying that “you’ll find these outside of traditional school settings.” Sometimes I would say that school puts limits on what a person can do with their mind. It is hard to say though because without some of those limits people may be doing some of the same things over and over. In general it seems as though people see limits as boundaries instead of using their creativity and saying, “I’m going to try something different.” Although as you expressed in your blog, schools focus on the basics. I would agree with you in saying that we need more than the simple basics!
    I could go on for hours about this particular topic, but basically the summation of my thoughts would be that passionate people are those who take the time to step outside of their comfort zone…those who want to succeed on numerous different levels of several different tasks every single day.

  4. What an interesting post. Your question, What might schools look like that task themselves with graduating students with passions instead of just transcripts?, prompted me to add to this topic. You may have mentioned this book in your many blog entries, but this is one I just started reading and it poses similar questions to yours as well as highlights schools that have fostered those passions…The Global Achievement Gap: What Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach by Tony Wagner, addresses how are our high schools are broken and what we need to fix it. He highlights seven suvival skills for teens today and examines schools that are working to develop these skills with diverse programs to foster the skill sets that students will need to work in the 21st Century.

  5. I totally agree with you. The world has been changing. In old times, teachers didn’t use that much technology. Now teachers should have knowledge about technology to motivate students and get them involved actively in a classroom. As a future English teacher, I think I have to keep studying English with teaching English, becuase the language is changing.

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