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Most Likely to Succeed

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Recently, EUA’s Learning Environments studio hosted a viewing of the film “Most Likely to Succeed.”  People from various local school districts came out to watch and discuss how our world is changing, and what that means for the future of the educational system. Specifically, as technology takes the place of many traditional jobs, how is our education system preparing our children for success in this new reality?

Excitement vs. Fear

One of the things that struck me from the film was the collective sense of impending doom over the realization that we are losing jobs to robots. I would like to offer a more hopeful take on this issue. The greater productivity that we can achieve through technological advancement is an amazing opportunity for our world and one we should embrace with excitement instead of fear.

The last time our society went through a labor shift this dramatic was the industrial revolution. Prior to that time, most people scrapped out a living through subsistence farming or other forms of manual labor.  The industrial revolution changed that dynamic completely.  At first, it was a bumpy road with exploitation and abuse. But eventually society came to realize that increased productivity meant more wealth, and more wealth meant less effort was required for survival. Our current 40-hour work week was only made possible by these advances in technology.

What does that mean for us today? I believe it means we are at the dawn of another great cultural shift. It is going to be a bit bumpy as we learn to cope with this new technology.  The potential, however, is staggering.  As we continue to achieve more with less human effort, I believe the expectation of a 40-hour work week is doomed for extinction.  I find that prospect extremely appealing!

The Future of Education

What does this mean for education? I agree with the basic premise of the film.  Our education needs to change.  High Tech High, the feature school in the film, is exploring some interesting ideas about what that might look like.  The emphasis on project-based curriculum, creative skills, and “soft” skills are all valid.  As a school planner, I want to create spaces that allow for this kind of creative, immersive educational model, and this means rethinking school design.  But the film also left me hurting for students who may not thrive at High Tech High.  Not everyone will become a creative leader; not everyone will find their voice; and not everyone will find redemption through failure. What about those on the outside, who feel like their skills are insufficient and their failures are insurmountable?

I believe our challenge as architects and educators is to create physical and intellectual spaces that enable our children to realize their potential.  But I am dissatisfied with preparing my children to be the most likely to succeed.  Our children will have incredible new tools and resources that could enable them to take on the bigger issues of injustice and inequality.   I want to prepare them for a world that challenges the notion of failure.

Bob Morris