I am not one to be doom and gloom, preferring to take an optimistic view of most things, but what has me really nervous is the state of K-12 educational curriculum in our country, as I am witnessing first-hand with my school age kids.
First, business is very much a global ecosystem today, not a U.S. centric ecosystem. Other countries don't play by same rules we do here, allowing them to be more nimble, and they are better training their kids for the most employable skill sets, like tech. You are seeing that with the rise of China in manufacturing and rise of India as the leader in technology. But, it is happening everywhere. The U.S. is just 300 million of what is becoming a 7 billion online population in the next decade. We need to start thinking globally, not locally.
Second, corporations are doing whatever they can to cut costs. The Affordable Care Act and other initiatives are having them prefer 1099 contractors to full time employees. That means those 1099 contractors, our kids, need to have the most employable skills, like technology and business, and know how to market themselves to attract clients with skills that tech them launch their own business/website/marketing efforts.
Third, the demand for good technologists is off the charts, putting them in short supply, and driving up salaries. Business is evolving so quickly, with CMO's more focused on mining big data, than creative design, that they can't hire enough good technologists fast enough, creating long term job opportunities for our kids.
Fourth, university tuition costs are skyrocketing, making getting a college degree that much harder for the masses. Meaning they need to have an employable backup plan, right out of high school, as many will not be able to afford college.
Last but not least, many older people can no longer afford to retire, hanging on to their jobs much longer. Which doesn’t open up jobs for kids right out of college at the bottom of the job funnel. Parents and students are starting to question the real value of building up large student loan balances, if there aren’t going to be lucrative enough jobs for them to get on the back-end, to pay down those loans.
What it means to our education system. Our current educational system is largely dated, built for a different era. In a perfect world, which we don't live in, changes would not be made in small iterations. We really need a meteoric shift, to make sure our kids are coming out with the needed skill sets to make them employable. No more teaching them about pilgrims, state capitals and rocks!!
Going slow with these changes, which most educational changes are, given all the governmental bureaucracy, will have a negative long term economic impact in the U.S. in years to come. We need to reverse the trend of losing our middle class, with the right skill sets. Skill sets that are mapped in relation to what the overall workforce demands today.
I believe the most important skill sets, are ones that promote business, technology and entrepreneurship. Two reasons: (i) those skill sets are always in demand; and (ii) kids can create a company or job of their own, if they can't find one elsewhere.
The current tech curriculum of teaching kids how to use technologies, like the iPad, is not the right focus. Teaching kids how to build software technologies that they are using on the iPad hardware is a much better focus. I bet Microsoft saw that same value in their recent acquisition of Minecraft, which has become a key tech player in the early education space.
My recommendation. These skill sets need to be added to the K-12 curriculum, in the classroom, either now, or over time. If need be, pilot the program in tech clubs first, and then once optimized, move it into the classroom. If there are not enough hours in the day to add this curriculum to other subject matter, be creative. In art class, trade "pottery" time for "graphic design" time. Or, in gym class, trade “pull up time”, for “team building” skills.
We need to get the message of this email communicated to the parents, on how important this topic is. Many of the parent doctors, stock traders, lawyers today have no idea how big of an issue this is for their kids. If they did, they would surely embrace the change, and demand it of their school administrators.
We need to design a program that is sellable to the administration and the teachers. But, please, don't let the "tail wag the dog". We need to incentivize and motivate the teachers on how this can benefit them, personally or economically, so they can embrace the change. As an example, maybe the teacher keeps 5 percent of revenues from any student launched business their class creates. That would also help solve the problem that teachers are underpaid, and creatively finds new funds with which to pay them, and attract the best talent.
If teachers don't have the skill sets required to teach the new curriculum, partner them up with parent or other volunteers that do. But, as seen at places like Code.org, online tools to teach coding to kids, there are simple tools out there that anyone can use to get started here, that we can move into the classroom.
My kid’s kindergarten class. I previously wrote about the entrepreneurial enthusiasm of the kids in my son’s kindergarten class, after I walked them through a class exercise where they were to ideate and launch their own business, an ice cream shop in this case. So, if a bunch of kindergartners can get jazzed up on this topic, there is no reason we can’t carry that energy all the way through their elementary and high school years.
The sooner our kids come out of school with employable skill sets, the better their lives and the overall U.S. economy will be in years to come. As you can see, this is a topic I am particularly passionate about. And, I hope I have now armed you with the ammunition you will need to approach your local school districts demanding immediate change.