Imagine you have a child.
Imagine that the future is going to be so high-risk and fast-changing that no one can predict what will happen. No one. Not even an “expert”.
Imagine that no one can predict what types of jobs and how many jobs there will be in even the relatively near-term future. Imagine that automation, artificial intelligence, and robots may even bring on a nearly jobless future.
Imagine there may be constant wars between the poor and the rich across the globe. Wars between massive flows of displaced immigrants and “natives”. Wars over water, land, and religion. Imagine there may be environmental collapse. Viruses and other diseases may rage across humanity. The Internet—and with it our whole modern hyper-connected world—may be hacked to death bringing on a new Dark Age.
Or, imagine that new technologies may save us, extend life greatly in both time and space, and bring on a utopia (or, perhaps, just a lot of new unintended consequences that will change the whole problem space).
So, now how do you think about school reformers that stress schools and colleges should be preparing your children for the jobs of the future? What jobs? What future?
But imagine you have a child and so you have to do SOMETHING.
You have to (I believe) ask yourself, “What sort of person does my child have to be to face a high-risk, complex, changing, and challenging world with resilience, hope, ethics, and the ability to survive, help, and possibly flourish?” You have to ask how learning and experiences in and out of school can help your child be such a person.
What would we call such a person? A person well prepared to live in a world fast becoming unmoored to the past and floating into an unknowable future. There is no name for such person, though surely there will be different ways to be one. So let’s just call such a person an “Ardent”, merely to have a name.
If we wanted to nurture and grow Ardents, how would our current discussions about schools, tests, assessment, teaching and learning, society, government, humanity, and the global world have to change? Would that new discussion have to be radically different and in a new language? Would we have to stop just trading positions in an old game and invent a whole new game, one where winning means saving the world and ourselves as moral human beings?
Where can a parent turn to get help to grow his or her child into an Ardent?
Imagine I am wrong about how unforeseeable and possibly unforgiving the future will be and yet we still, nonetheless, produced a generation of Ardents?
Didn’t we need saving anyway?