Teaching Opinion

The Central Figure Of Education

By Tom Segal — October 01, 2012 3 min read
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I thought long and hard about what I would say for this, the first of my postings for Reimagining K-12 (a thank you to the staff at EdWeek is probably a reasonable thing to lead off with). My first inclination was to write an ode to the high school teacher that first led me to understand that I possessed my own unique voice and encouraged me to speak my mind through writing*--but that might be a tad creepy. My second thought was to take a famous work from the author that most influenced me as a student (Theodor Geisel) and rewrite it in praise of adaptive technology--but I should save this for later, once you’ve gotten to know me a bit better.

I settled for my third thought: a simple idea that will permeate most every blog that is posted under this heading. A single number, in fact.

This figure is not meant as a scare tactic; rather, it should shape the way we think about every process involved in the learning experience and influence how we make decisions related to the classroom (and beyond). This figure necessitates a shift toward matching outcomes to opportunities within the scope of education, not just in K-12 but in learning at all walks of life:

Three million.

According to the Department of Labor, American companies have reported more than three million job openings every month since February 2011. At a time when our political discourse so heavily revolves around the topic of unemployment (which, I should add, is wholly justified), it is shockingly rare that we hear any mention of the fact that millions of engaging, stimulating, well-paying, socially-rewarding jobs are available today--we simply lack the talented, creative, educated workforce to fill them. These jobs are almost unanimously centered on technology and operating software and programs that require substantial knowledge of computers.

These are not the jobs of tomorrow. These are the jobs of today. I may not know what the job of tomorrow will wind up being, but I can assure you that it will require even more problem solving and tech familiarity than the current unfilled positions.

Does this mean we need an iPad for every student? Or flipped classrooms? MOOCs? Federal funding out of our ears? Extra naptime? Free meals? Summer sessions, art lessons, or union concessions?

That’s for you to decide. I simply want you to keep this number in mind when you think about K-12 education: three million.

In the coming months, Matt and I will be providing you with a unique perspective on the education landscape, one from the ground floor of innovation and including guest posts by thought-provoking voices from across the education spectrum. For a bit of perspective, Matt and I work for an edtech-focused venture fund called Rethink Education (where he is the boss and I am the analyzer). We have the pleasure of watching the latest/greatest ideas in the education community matriculate, adapt, pivot, and progress, all from the brains and energy of an amazing collection of entrepreneurial minds. While Matt is a seasoned veteran who knows at least a few of the answers, I am still learning my way: I am (relatively) young, (possibly) stupid, (probably) naïve, and (certainly) romantic when it comes to this education space--but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I see the work being done by startups and progressive educators across the country and genuinely believe it will change the world (just not as quickly as I’d like).

I’m no teacher (though Matt was), and by no means do I think I know more than they when it comes to educating our children. I simply want to provide them (and parents, administrators, and politicians to boot) with the best tools and information available to make them more successful at what they do: preparing the next generation of thinkers, doers, and leaders.

*Mrs. Sampson, my A.P. U.S. History teacher. Thank you for pushing me to opine.

The opinions expressed in Reimagining K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.