Create the Creative Class, Deprecate the Drone

Having written a few notes about education, particularly about the holy triumvirate of Higher Education, K-12 Education, and Business, I’ve gotten some feedback. Feedback is good; feedback is the signal people need to re-tune their message, to clarify misunderstanding.

One of the frequent concerns I’ve received regards my desire for more business interaction in high school. The concern is that I’m advocating a return to the 1950s and the creation of a Laborer Class, or as described by others as, “drones.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Business and Industry, and American society itself, does not need more drones, more laborers. Advocating for more manual labor is backward-thinking and counterproductive.

Typically, business and industries partner with schools to provide funding for computers, lab equipment, money for assessment, or for sports. Nice, but those do not really hit the bottom-line of education.

The PENCIL program (link) is very similar to what I have in mind.

A common question is, “How can I motivate my students to learn?” Or, “how can I bring relevance to my class?” Or, “How can a capture my students interest?”

Teachers must show relevance, show students how what they learn applies to the real world. In history, that could mean discussing changes in global finance over time, or changes in global labor pools, or changes in political philosophy. To supplement such discussions, local business leaders should be invited to teach. And, not just to teach, but to bring in real-world issues, and submit them to the class.

A business leader on one day discuss his companies supply-chain. Where are the raw materials extracted? Where are the raw materials processed? Where is manufacturing sourced? Why? How do you deal with interruptions to the supply-chain due to natural disaster, such as earthquakes or floods?

On a subsequent day, the businessperson might discuss labor issues. On another day, discuss marketing.

With each day, a series of problems should be presented for the students to struggle with.

Schools have Career Day, or maybe even Career Week.

I submit class time each week should be geared towards discussion of careers related to the individual class. For math, bring in an accountant, an actuary, a financial advisor. For biology, invite a veterinarian, a wildlife officer, a medical examiner.

Most members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have educational systems that have near-complete buy-in to secondary education. In Germany, students are encouraged and guided based on interests and skills to select careers in which they will find success. South Korea is very similar. Businesses and corporations, like Mercedes-Benz, work with high schools to identify students of all skill sets, from design, engineering, writing, and chemistry, nurture them along, and then provide them jobs after high school or college.

Mercedes-Benz does not want drones. Neither does Google, or Facebook, or Microsoft, or Apple. No one does.

We do need to encourage good work. We do need to encourage good writing and math skills.

One way of doing that is through showing students why their education is important. Allow them to discover for themselves careers in which they might be interested by participating in the process of problem-solving real-world problems. Show them how business and industry leverage knowledge, and them let them develop skills and use those skills to solve similar problems.

But, these opportunities must be ever-present. Not a “day,” or a “week,” but must be built into the regular curriculum. Time every week should be devoted to the real-world, and in all disciplines.

That seems to be what PENCIL is about. Every district in the U.S. needs a program like this.

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