Education for a Post-Baby Boomer World
Clark Aldrich and his work have appeared widely including in New York Times, CNN, and CBS.
Aldrich, who received his degree in Cognitive Science from Brown University and has held a top secret clearance level, works across sectors, from corporate to non-profit to academic to military to government in order to create a robust new model of education.
Over the decades, the Baby Boomer era has evolved an educational system based on nostalgia.
Most schools are designed to prepare students for the middle class jobs that don’t exist anymore.¹
Too often, schools reward those students who display values of doggedness, conformity, sharp-elbowed competitiveness, and a willingness to sacrifice personal life.²
Standardized testing has weaponized this. The best known schools gain prestige by doing this more ruthlessly.
The most influential campuses have evolved to be expensive corporate parks, ever closer to GE’s Crotonville. These are ideally staffed by boomer's perfect B-school professor: cool, humble-bragging, and assigning more reading than is possible to finish.
It is a Jack Welch/McKinsey world, where something is of value only if it can be measured. (And I say this as both a Brown graduate and a former Gartner analyst.)
Schools teach analytical skills and penalize leaders and other “doers”. This may be destroying society.
K-12 and colleges promote a narrow form of analytic skill to the exclusion of other crucial competencies.
Schools talk up leadership and innovation because communities ask for them, but they can't teach them, can't measure them, and don't reward them. No one has learned how to be a leader from a book.
The output of schools is a sorting of students into winners and losers based on the narrow filters of analytical skills and doggedness, while spinning it as a meritocracy.
As a result, the approach of schools has become hostile to many of the best leaders and innovators in the student population. Kinesthetic males and females recognize that schools are undermining their futures, sacrificing them to subsidize the analysts unless they convert. College is now seen as a bitter pill.³
Our school system hurts our global competitiveness by focusing top students on analyzing, not doing. These top students end up bloating the organizations that eventually hire them.
Worse, schools are a likely root cause for our current civil unrest. Many see schools, and by extension government agencies in general, as unfair and oppressive.
Education’s New Mission
Today's youths are entrepreneurial, mission driven, and suspicious of institutions. The Internet now provides them access not just to libraries, communities, job postings, and instruction, but also to business-level open-source tools and scalable, rentable services (such as AWS).
They want an education that speaks their language, and helps them with their challenges. They want to learn to do, not learn to analyze. And they want their paychecks to fund their visions not their student loans.
Our educational system needs to be designed for them, not their grandparents.
Our educational system should feed new domestic manufacturing, clean energy start-ups, and other entrepreneurial ventures. Our educational system must develop leadership and innovation.
And our educational system needs to support and learn from parents and children looking for non-standardized offerings and paths.
The mission of education needs to be:
To help everyone discover what they are good at, discover what they care the most about, and connect the two in a sustaining way.
We are seeing a welcome explosion of new schools with new philosophies. But none will survive the retirement of their founders unless they are supported by new educational media.
The most leverageable opportunity for evolving schools is educational media.
Why can't schools teach leadership? Mostly, it is because it doesn't have the right media.
Educational media shapes schools, just as much as pharmaceuticals shape our medical care. Without the right content, the most dedicated teachers can't fulfil their mission.
To be relevant to the current generation, we need a new approach to educational media that speaks the language of experiential learning, not of traditional teaching.
It needs to align with how the brain is designed to learn, which is through low-stakes experimentation with tight feedback-loops. The best way to learn how to lead a large team is to lead a small team.
I have spent decades building out examples, award and patent winning, of a new type of simple experiential educational media. I have worked with military, corporate, non-profit, and academic clients on real projects solving real needs to make sure it included the DNA of almost all aspects of the meaningful and productive world.
I have evolved this approach called Short Sims—platform-independent, non-proprietary, and easily shared—to be elegant and broadly applicable. Just yesterday, I was working on Short Sims for international diplomats, the United States government, a major financial institution, and kindergarteners.
How to save education and the society that funds it.
Schools today are set up to fail. How can we change course? There are four things needed to go forward:
Commit to a new mission of education.
Use "learning to do" media (such as my Short Sims) that directly build the competencies and conviction that lead to behaviors in leadership, innovation, and other life and professional skills. Create open source tools and repositories, open to schools, but also corporations and other institutions, and individual students and families.
Where standardized tests and drills are necessary, use rigorous assessment Short Sims focused on such topics as leadership, entrepreneurship, stewardship, self-mastery, ethics, and innovation. We know we have assessment right when students don't want to cheat.
Unbundle school programs. Let parents and students pick their teachers and curricula. This has become real now that virtual school programs mean that any learner can choose any program. The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.
This is how we prepare students for their future, not our past.
¹Davis, G. (2016, September 16). Column: When corporations were a source of greater equality. PBS. Retrieved August 14, 2022, from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/economy/corporations-greater-equality
²Strauss, V. (2020, September 2). Perspective | does homework work when Kids Are Learning All Day at home? The Washington Post. Retrieved August 14, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/09/01/does-homework-work-when-kids-are-learning-all-day-home/
³Marcus, J. (2022, August 10). How higher education lost its shine. The Hechinger Report. Retrieved August 13, 2022, from https://hechingerreport.org/how-higher-education-lost-its-shine/