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barriebramleyBarrie Bramley is a father, a husband and an eager student in the art of loving life. He  spends most of his working moments involved in exploring a changing workplace and a changing worker with TomorrowToday. You can contact him by visiting his family blog at www.bramley.co.za

 

Children born today will retire in around 2070. We don’t know what the world will look like in 5 years time. What future are we educating our children for?

 

A paraphrase of the introduction to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, ‘Do schools kill creativity?’. If you haven’t watched it, and you’re interested in education (who isn’t) then take the 20 minutes to watch it, and the bandwidth to download it. You can find it at https://bit.ly/MgdFM (or go to www.ted.com and search for it).

The world is changing so quickly, driven largely by technology and we  don’t have a clear view yet of what we’re heading for?

The shift needed in education is massive. The responsibility for this shift  lies with educators and parents alike. As parents we often look backwards for solutions . So often I am involved in conversations with fellow parents where they start their thoughts off with, “When I was at school we….”. In business we know that the solutions don’t come from our past. They will be found by looking forward and thinking sidewards. It’s no different for schools and education. As parents we need to let go of ‘the good old days’ and join educators in finding relevant ways to prepare our children for THEIR future.

credit:dasolar.com

credit:dasolar.com

Let me offer up a very simple, even silly, example to make my point. RESPECT.

Respect is one of those generational issues that plays itself out in all forms of society daily. For older generations respect is positional. If you’re a doctor, minister, teacher, bank manager, etc, older generations will give you 100% respect based on your title alone. They don’t know you, don’t know how you got there, but based on title they’ll start you off on 100%. Of course over time, this number will correct and get lower (nobody is perfect)

Today’s younger people take a very different view of respect. It’s relational. No matter your title, when they meet you they start you off on 0% respect, based on the fact that they don’t know you, and they don’t know how you got that title. Over time this number increases (nobody is undeserving of respect). This number ends up in the same place as the older generations view of you.

One can easily understand why younger people have this value around respect. They’ve grown up in a world where they’ve been exposed to many people who have held important positions (and titles) and have exploited and abused those positions. In every sector. Government, medicine, religion, education, family, etc, etc. In their world, position and title cannot be trusted from the start. So in order to respect you, they must get to know you.

This is one of the explanations for the rise of informality in the work place. There are very few business environments you find yourself in where the traditional titles that denoted respect are still used. Gone are the ‘Mr and Mrs’, the ‘Mam and Sir’ and even the ‘Dr and Reverend’ as a way of greeting and in turn showing respect. We’re on a first name basis largely, and even nicknames in places they were never tolerated before. Formality is out, and informality is in.

Why do schools insist on this archaic and irrelevant style of communication? Surely they can’t still believe that it somehow assists with respect? My children speak to all my friends using their first names (and even nicknames) and I don’t see any sign of disrespect? They use the first name of our doctor and our minister, and I’ve not seen any sign of disrespect. They’re certainly not assisting my children to adapt to the business world of the future. In that world they will go from ‘Mr and Mrs’ to a first name basis immediately. Surely teachers understand that today’s young people view respect in a completely different way, and that simply standing in front of the class and announcing that you have the title ‘teacher’ and they will therefore address them as ‘Mr or Mrs’ isn’t going to mean anything in terms of respect? In nursery school all the teachers (in 4 different schools my children have attended) were on a first name basis and again I saw no sign of disrespect. Could it be a ‘big school’ paradigm that’s at play?

This possibly is a small and silly area for me to highlight. But take this thinking and apply it to other areas of our schools. Have a look at the curriculum our education system has designed. Examine the rules by which our children spend most of each day. Watch Sir Ken Robinson. Identify the areas where we as parents are obstacles to frustrated educators who’s hands are tied because we pay the bills. Challenge the educators in spaces they’re stuck in. Do a little thinking and imagine the next 70 years, then get involved in some long term planning and conversation.

It is not our future. It belongs to our children. They will inhabit it and need to survive and thrive in it. We should be doing everything we can to prepare them for it.

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