For quite some time now, many have been debating the value of college degrees and viability of the traditional college business model as a whole in the 21st century. After all, in this month alone we have two exceptionally provocative books (if not titles): The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere and College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education.
If you find yourself hard-pressed to find the time to read an entire book (much less two) in the near future, then I strongly suggest you find four minutes to read last month’s Quartz article, “Degrees don’t matter anymore, skills do,” which as you may have guessed from its title, addresses a number of the same themes.
However, the real reason that today really feels like a decisive moment in education is beautifully captured in the new documentary film, Most Likely to Succeed. More than my aforementioned four-minute “strong suggestion,” I implore you to find the 86 minutes to watch it sooner than later.
One of our fundamental beliefs at WonderLab is that asking good questions is far more important that regurgitating correct answers. I love this movie because it rises above providing standard, ideological education answers and instead asks some of this moment’s most important questions about education, schooling, teaching and learning:
- “Over 100 years ago the United States went from one-room schoolhouses to the robust, industrial model we have now. It was a transformation that was nothing short of miraculous. Perhaps it’s time for another transformation?”
- “Right now we are attempting to educate a generation of kids who will work in jobs that have not been invented yet. They will be called on to solve problems in a world so complex we can’t even imagine it. How do you design a school system that prepares kids for that?”
- “While turning students into better collaborators, or having them think more critically might seem like a great idea, won’t changing a student’s approach to education this radically inhibit their ability to get into a good college?”
But more importantly, the film captures the questions, the humanity, and the uncertainty of parents in this decisive moment:
- “Do I want him to do well on the SAT? Why? To get into college? Well, why? I’ve had to really reexamine all of those things—and why do I want all the things that I want for him? Because it’s not like I’m only trying to get him into an Ivy League school or something. I’m really not. I want him to be happy. But I also don’t want him to have any doors closed.”
- “As I consider the kind of education I want for my own daughter, how do I predict what will give her the best shot at future happiness? At being successful—whatever that means?”
And though WonderLab Mentor Guides do not answer questions, I for one feel that this is a very appropriate moment to reiterate what we believe:
- We believe that education is changing—shifting from uniform textbooks that provide facts to project-based, experiential learning that develops unique skills.
- We believe that most schools, tutoring and test prep centers have fallen behind this shift—and not changing fast enough to catch-up.
- We therefore believe that partnerships between families and forward-thinking supplementary learning coaches (like WonderLab Mentor Guides) present the best shot these days at ensuring an individual Learner’s future happiness and success.
So whether success to you as a parent is for your child to get into a highly selective college, become highly skilled, and/or be happy, we believe that this need not be an either/or. We believe that the straightest line to all three is figuring out what motivates your child to love learning, developing a project as unique as they are, and supporting them as they work to change the world.
Or perhaps better articulated by Sir Ken Robinson in the final minutes of Most Likely to Succeed, “Human resources are like the world’s natural resources—they are buried beneath the surface. If we find things that energize us—things that we love to do—you can’t keep us down.”
Clearly this film has energized me. Though it’s still busy energizing others at major film festivals (Sundance, Tribeca, etc.), my ask today is that you consider helping the film’s producers organize a screening in your hometown. I’m organizing one here in Austin, so please email me for more information and to attend.
After all, whether or not this really is a decisive moment in education depends on you.
Is this your moment?