My kids’ education will be worlds different from the one I had, and I don’t know if I should be concerned or excited.
** Backstory / Disclaimers:
I grew up in private schools. My parents pinched pennies to put me through a Christian elementary school, and sent me to the same Christian middle / high school that my dad has been working at for some 20+ years, now.
I wouldn’t trade the experiences I had there for any of the experiences other Zachs have had in alternate timelines and/or parallel universes (though I’m sure that all of those experiences taught them valuable lessons in the same way that mine did).
I also owe my college education to my parents’ hard work-ethic and faith that God would provide the funds, so long as they were good stewards of what they had. I graduated with some debt, but due to their faith and generosity, it was minimal, and my wife and I were able to pay it off within a year or two of my entering the workforce.
When I began my senior year of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
This is probably common with a lot of kids in that stage of life.
It was my senior year. I still remember sitting in our family car, talking to my dad about what I was (or wasn’t?) going to do after high school, let alone after college. This conversation led into a discussion about the things that I enjoyed doing at that time. I had a wide range of interests, but I didn’t have a lot of experience with most of those interests.
The only activity I’d been spending a reasonable amount of time doing my senior year was music; specifically in the praise & worship scene. I was involved in four events a week, two of which I was organizing myself. I put so much time and effort into that space that I rarely had time for much else.
I decided to look into sharpening my skills by joining an undergrad music program that concentrated on preparing and placing young people in worship/music roles around the country.
There were only two universities with strong, established programs like that at the time, and that’s how I ended up at Cedarville University in the cornfields of southwestern Ohio.
Aaaand then I changed majors after one semester… to Communications. What had previously been my minor, Digital Communication, became the major I graduated with (with a concentration on Broadcasting & Audio Production).
And now, five years later, I’m enjoying life as a product manager at a software-driven medical devices company. (As much as it sounds like “Digital Communication” should have applied to the software industry, product management is NOT the discipline my undergrad degree prepared me for).
My story is not unique. Hopefully it becomes less and less the status quo.
If you keep your ear to the ground in the tech industry, you’ll hear tech moguls talk about hiring people who do not have a college degree—essentially, hiring based on merit rather than education.
I think this will poses a new (exciting) challenge for people today and for my kids in the way-future. They’ll need to demonstrate the skills necessary for the position during interview processes, rather than leaning on their resume, references, and a short personality test.
I don’t think this is a bad change, rather, I think that this will push the next generation to be the best version of themselves, to take advantage of opportunities, and to make their education their own from an earlier age.
What I think is interesting is that it seems that the people of the future might put much higher value on specific skills vs. well-rounded educations like the one I graduated with. I have a feeling we’ll start seeing that shift in more and more industries, just like in the tech industry (save medical industries where people are poking around your body with metal tools and cauterizing wounds with lasers).
I’m imagining something of a reversion towards apprenticeships… the depth of the relationships and mentorship that come as a side-effect of that would be more than welcome in a world where isolation and loneliness are common feelings despite all the ways we “connect” with one another.
Normalizing that kind of educational norm is something I could get on-board with.
All that said, I hope that the future Mini-Me’s are as prepared and focused as they can be.
For them, this may mean waiting to start higher education until they have a better idea of what they might want to do with the rest of their lives.
Maybe gap year(s) will be more common-place as large industries move further towards a merit-based hiring process.
Maybe degrees will be less common, and universities will have to pivot, offering programs that focus only on a students specific interests. This would help cut the fat from “well-rounded” degrees.
Personally, I can think of a number of “gen-ed” courses I was required to take that were probably as effective as dumping cash into a burn bin, especially in comparison to the value I could have received from a more industry-specific course (even in the event that I decided not to go into that industry).
I only want what’s best for my kids. With education becoming more and more expensive, it’s only going to become more important that we make the most of every dollar in that space.
A lot of people have fantastic ideas about how to do this. Many of them (most of them?) are way more qualified than I am to talk to or write on the subject.
That’s fine. This is where I’m at. I hope that those folks with a more complete picture of what the future of education looks like (and who have the power to change it) are able to find this post, and maybe even consider acting on it.
Wouldn’t that be something.
Feature Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash