08: Who Determines What We Learn?

If you were alive 25 years ago, you will be able to remember the awful noise of your dial-up connecting to the internet. Screee-ahhhh-brrr! Who could have imagined that soon you would take your entire CD collection and put it all on one little, adorable hand-held device? Who could then have imagined that you could use that device as a phone? And then as a camera? I remember wondering back then, why the heck would anyone want to use their phone as a camera?! But I could not see the bigger picture: That the emerging smart phone would be about sharing, not just mining, data. And that it would be oh, so personal. And that it would get much bigger than I ever could have predicted.

As impossible as it is to predict the future, so too is it impossible to teach our students skills for its eventuality.

This eye-opening video states that the amount of technical information is doubling every two years. This means that for students starting a 4 year technical degree “half of what they learned in their first year of study will be outdated by their third year of study”. Educators today understand that it is more important than ever to teach students how to learn so that they can be adaptable to future economic and technological changes.

Enter the BC Blueprint for Education. It is the scaffolding upon which the future of BC’s  educational curriculum will be built. The Blueprint will direct educational funding of over $3 billion to train British Columbians for “a million job openings” that will be “created by major new opportunities, including expanding liquefied natural gas (LNG) development in Northern B.C., increased trade with Asia, new mines and mining expansions, growing forestry exports as well as increased activity in the resource sectors, transportation, industry and business”.

Is the potential of the high-tech sector completely lost on the plan? Anyway…

Investing to prepare BC’s students for specific skills in an industry that may not even materialize is risky. When a corporation steers public education to satisfy its own goals, it attempts to create a system predicated on furthering the needs of a dominant class. If value is not placed on critical thinking curriculum we may fail to encourage our graduates to be creative, entrepreneurial and adaptive, just the skills needed to be successful in an uncertain future.

Constructing an education system around mainly one industry creates a false hope that if followed, the student will experience prosperity. Alberta today is an exceedingly good example of a trades-focused, lightly-diversified labour force. But “Learners to Earners” remains the mantra of the BC Blueprint for Education. It doesn’t propose to teach students how to learn, but what to learn in order to earn at predictable skills-based jobs.

Ethically speaking, should large private corporations be allowed to dictate public education curriculum, determine learning goals and select reading lists to further their own needs?

Photo credit: Jake Cook via Foter.com / CC BY



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