Last month, I read this great post by Shawn Humphrey @BluCollarProf in which he wrote a fictitious commencement speech to the class of 2014. I connected with the vision he portrayed of a social “deal” in which a child find oneself immersed as s/he grows, experiences life, learn who s/he is, struggles to find her/his passions, and understand where s/he fits into this world. The deal includes a scripted path with behavioral and academic expectations at each bend. At the culmination of the journey, the young adult, according to “the plan,” should encounter a quest in the real world — a quest for employment for which s/he has been prepared and will consist of interviews and a self-fulfilling offer.
Humphrey’s satirical examination of how we, in the U.S., prepare our youth for professional success today is something I often think about as an educator and as a parent. It was on my mind in June as I sat teary-eyed, celebrating my niece’s graduation from high school, my older son’s promotion from 8th grade and my younger son’s promotion from 6th grade. But, really, are we preparing graduates for success in today’s professional workplace or our own?
With globalization, continuous technological innovations in communications, and ever decreasing transportation costs, more and more people are showing up each and every day to do what our educational system programmed you to do at a lower price. The barriers to entry that you spent a lifetime building are falling all around you. The visible manifestations of your academic superiority – the tassels and medallions that drape your neck, your Honor Society membership card, and even your diploma – will not protect you. You loyalty and long-term employment with a company will not protect you.
The world has changed. Our education system has not. For the most part, it continues to operate as if the aforementioned deal is still alive. Let me be clear. It is not.
With the nudge I got from Shawn’s great post, I made the time today to purchase an early graduation gift for my children that I believe they will thank me for when they graduate from high school. I purchased their own personal domain name for each of them. They will build their websites when they are prepared with the skills to do so. These personalized URLs will be like business cards are today. Each individual will be expected to have a public space on the web to point their global contacts to, facilitating the sharing of ideas and the fostering of relationships through collaboration.
I will continue to do what I can as a parent to ensure my children have opportunities to become proficient with creating a social presence that will foster values that are embraced in the social era. Happy graduation boys — class of 2018 and 2020!