As Millennials, we are stuck between two ideologies that are leaving us quiet and nervous for our futures. Our parents, who grew up in an America where working hard in school led to success, are telling us to follow in their footsteps, while the job-market is shying us away from stepping into our adulthood because no matter how hard we work in school, there are no jobs out there.
Unlike our parents, who received schooling that set them up to be successful doctors, lawyers and bankers, we, as a generation, are receiving an outdated and counteractive education that is getting us nowhere. Thomas Friedman gave insight to this issue in his Op-Ed piece “Need a Job? Invent It” featured in the Sunday NYTimes. The issue is not simply just the lack of jobs today, Friedman explains, it is the goal of education that is currently creating two-dimensional students who are successful in school, but fail to succeed elsewhere because the skill of attaining knowledge is becoming more and more outdated. He cites Tony Wagner, the Harvard education specialist, who wrote a book explaining the need for a shift in America’s education system, where the goal “should not be to make every child “college ready” but “innovation ready” – ready to add value to whatever they do”.
Value, is the missing ingredient in how America is educating today’s youth. Think about what Wagner is saying; “because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate – the availability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life – and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge. As one executive told me, ‘We can teach new hires the content, and we will have to because it continues to change, but we can’t teach them how to think – to ask the right questions–and to take initiative.’”
As young people, in high school or college, we need to start thinking about and questioning our education and the paths we want to start taking. Our schooling right now is only preparing us for half of what is needed. It is teaching us to be productive, to be studious, to retain large amounts of information, to write, many necessary things, but what is left behind is the opportunity to explore our own creativity, to collaborate, innovate, and the skill of carrying out action. If we don’t start exploring the other side of education, maybe the more experiential side, we won’t be prepared or stand out when trying to find a job. The cool thing is, if we are well versed in our own ideas and if we know how to carry them out, we will be prepared to enter into a world where innovation and new ideas are what will make us successful. We have to move away from using the recycled knowledge that our parents have already used up. Times certainly have changed and that means a change in the way we think about education and our future is needed. We should strive to gain that future of certainty back, and hopefully an education reform where students will be “innovation ready” will prompt that change.
Caroline Gray, 18