Educating for the next economy

When I'm feeling indignant, I make pronouncements like "it's higher ed's moral obligation to prepare their students for employment twenty years hence!". When I'm feeling cynical, I make proclamations like "institutions for higher learning cannot not learn enough about changes in our current culture, markets and business models to prepare students for next week, much less twenty years out". When I'm feeling compassionate, I relate to how it feels being trapped inside the flawed business models and legacy practices of academia. Here's some empathy for those who are hamstrung and prevented from educating their enrollment for the next economy.

There are four mindsets that reject the next economy out of hand:
  1. Educators schooled in a tradition of objective science, empirical verification and accurate researched conclusions will prepare students for the next economy once it's past history. Until then, announcements about the next economy amount to unverified speculation, wild conjectures and unfounded hypotheses.
  2. Educators organized by bureaucratic hierarchies get rewarded for their personal conformity. It pays to toe the line, meet other's expectations and comply with policy mandates. Speaking of the next economy now is tantamount to whistle blowing, traitorous conduct and sticking one's neck out unnecessarily.
  3. Educators committed to publishing their research look through a lens of authoritative expertise transmitted by read-only, ink on paper. It's inconceivable how naive newbies could speak with authority and legitimized voices. It makes no sense how read/write text could not plagiarize, corrupt or ruin their carefully constructed publications.
  4. Educators enamored with factory models of education (delivering consistent content, ensuring quality of presentations, maintaining uniformity of service) can only dread the next economy. There's nothing to look forward to about becoming inconsistent, sporadic, dependent on inexperience, or plagued by participation.
In most educational settings, these mindsets are prevalent. They set the tone, define expectations and determine who gets respected. Rewards and abuses get dished out according to these parameters. Pressures to think alike about success, function as a team player and maintain unity of command would impose these restrictions on independent thinkers.

There are educators who are feeling inspired, seeing the changes, valuing the opportunities and welcome the challenges of the next economy. They want to educate their students for the next economy. They would be hitting walls, getting shot down, kept overworked and disheartened by snide comments.

These forerunners are in no position to supplement a free educational experience with some advertising revenue. They cannot crowdsource what they are offering or allow a community to provide the educational experiences among themselves. They cannot formulate educational offerings which are inherently viral and successful without marketing expense.

At least not yet...


  1. Kia ora Tom.

    Thanks for this list of four follies.

    The thing about the mind sets is that they also tend to be extreme. I aliken the almost capricious changes that do occur in the mindset to the movement of a pendulum that oscillates between extremes.

    The balance point, which often is the preferred optimum, happens to be the one position where the movement is at its greatest, so the pendulum spends least time there. Unfortunately, the pendulum spends most of its time at the extremes.

    Catchya later

  2. Thanks for adding a dimension here Ken. I had not considered those stances to be extremes until you pointed it out. Our minds go to extremes like those in times of danger. Perhaps a way to alleviate the opposition to changes in education is to calm people down, structure some safety into their experiences and provide some handles to grasp what's occurring beyond their control.

    I'm glad you contributed to this!