What about the jobs that exist now?
Posted by lpearle on 19 February 2013
Recently (within the past two weeks) I saw someone on twitter repeat the statement that we need to train students for jobs that don’t yet exist. Oooookkayy. I guess. Here’s the problem: why aren’t we also paying attention to the jobs that not only currently exist but have existed (albeit using different tools, and with perhaps different foci) for millennium.
What jobs? Doctor. Teacher. Author. Reporter. Artist. Repairman. Banker. I could go on.
When we talk about “jobs of the future” we’re talking about things we can’t see – someone 150 years ago could not have possibly imagined “web designer” or “social media director” because the technology needed to support those jobs didn’t exist. Given the pace of change in technology tools, it makes sense to wonder what jobs our current K-12 students will have available to them and to do our best to help them become comfortable with technology and change so that they can fill whatever positions emerge. But are we doing this at the expense of training students for those important jobs that exist now, that will continue to exist in the future?
When we push STEM programs, we neglect the arts and humanities. Without those, we’re going to lose our doodlers, our poets, our authors, dancers, and deep thinkers. Not recognizing that there is incredible value to reading works of literature from different cultures and learning the history of our, and other, countries and peoples is short-changing our next generation of politicians, reporters and thinkers. Already we overuse the words “fascist” and “Nazi” (really, that Soup Nazi character – which, admittedly, I’ve never actually seen because I disliked “Seinfeld” – was not a funny idea). Students don’t understand the Cold War, and how that still affects our daily lives (doesn’t the STEM push come from our Sputnick fears? I think so…). They see our current gridlock in Congress and the culture that leads to lack of cross-party discourse and see that as normal. How are we going to show them that it shouldn’t be that way, that it can’t stay that way?
When we cut arts programs, aren’t we showing students that “culture” doesn’t matter? That no one cares about music, or art, or theatre? Those aren’t as important as computers and science and all those subjects, right? What we tend to forget about Steve Jobs is that he was not the Big Computer Geek that Woz or Gates were. Instead, he brought an aesthetic sensibility to the process that led to the cool, “sexy” look of Apple products – where will the next Jobs come from if we’re pushing people away from calligraphy in favor of coding?
All this isn’t to suggest that we drop math and science in favor of arts and humanities. It’s to say let’s not forget about the current jobs, the current professions and that educating well-rounded K-12 students now (they can specialize later, in college) is critical to our nations health and well-being, let alone all our futures.