For the past few years, it has been repeated many times that we are preparing children for future careers that do not yet exist.
Consider the gravity of that statement!
At first glance, I immediately think, “How?”
But as I think about it, this statement illustrates two things that I find interesting:
1–The importance of learning skill
Before I explain this further, let me confess that as one who majored in History and in Theology in college… I find content to be VERY important! It is important to know WHAT happened so that you can dig into WHY it happened. Theologically, the historicity of events is what our faith depends upon. This is not to say that faith is dependent upon a knowledge of those facts, but rather to say that “the facts” must be factual, or, in fact, our faith is in vain.
The skills needed to acquire content as well as the skills needed to get the most of that content within an academic discipline are important. To what degree they are important is the focus of a shift in educational thought concerning 21st century learning skills. And this realization leads to the other point I find interesting;
I like to think of myself as someone who is fairly self-aware. I readily admit that I am biased concerning some educational methods and some philosophies of education. However, I am fascinated by learning more about “the other side.” I am essentially an essentialist when it comes to educational philosophy, but I like to learn more about perennialism, progressivism, and democratic schools. Within the various philosophies we can find some common themes or some important ideas to incorporate into our own philosophy.
And so, believing that bias is omnipresent within education, taking a statement about preparing children for non-existent careers makes me wonder about the bias to be found within. The first bias I see is in a pragmatic or utilitarian view of education. Is the goal of education to prepare students for their careers? The structure of our current education system suggests it is not. This view is gaining in popularity, though, as evidenced by the many articles written on the subject. (I plan on addressing this view more at a later date.) Neil Postman once wrote that there were basically three reasons that people read: The first reason is to gain knowledge; the second reason is for entertainment; and the third reason is for edification–to read something that is recognized as great not to “amuse” and not gain any particular skill or knowledge, but rather to stretch and grow. Postman argued that we are losing the third reason for reading as people strive more for practical knowledge and then seek to escape that rigor through amusement.
To put it another way, as my former pastor David Koeneman once said, “We worship our work, we work at our play, and we play in our worship.”
Could those same sentiments be applied to education? Are we losing the idea of a liberal arts education for the sake of practicality, pragmatism, and utilitarian views (or worse yet… for the sake of ease?)
A second bias can be found in the idea that the careers do not exist. While it is true that specific titles or even actions may not yet be on the horizon, this quote seems to imply an uncertain discord with which we approach the subject. To me, the quote is another voice in the echo chamber of “uncertain times.” We live in a confused world in which legalism, pietism, and a wide variety of other “-isms” has created a culture of hate and vengeance under the banner of tolerance and acceptance. Forgiveness and mercy are long forgotten. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, selfish ambition has found a way to masquerade as “community.”
In these uncertain times, we have a choice. We can choose to feed into the “fear” by saying, “How can we take on such a monumental task of preparing students for a world we can’t predict?” We can wallow in self-pity. We can be afraid of activists. We can freeze up and decide to do nothing.
We can trust. We can look at the bias behind such statements and add an ending to it:
We are preparing children for future careers that do not exist… yet require timeless skills that Lutheran schools alone will provide within a Christ-centered environment.
I am reminded of what happened with the Israelites in Joshua 3. Note that the river was at flood stage when the Israelites went to cross. If you have ever been around flood waters, you have probably noticed that (1) they move quickly; (2) they can be dangerous and scary; and (3) you lose a sense of the depth of the water. So, not only did the Israelites have to go to the edge of these rivers, they had to have their feet touch the waters. What a true “step” of faith! To boldly go forward into what appears to be scary and dangerous… maybe even deadly… is what we are called to do in this day and age as well.
Lutheran teachers, I urge you to trust. As you face these uncertain flood waters, jump in! Face the uncertainty boldly with the knowledge that our Lord and Savior is Lord and Savior of ALL and has called you to your vocation. He who has called you will not abandon you, my friends.