In a recent NY Times piece in which Tom Friedman summarizes his interview with Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations [hiring] for Google, he ends with this:
Beware. Your degree is not a proxy for your ability to do any job. The world only cares about — and pays off on — what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it). And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where you go to work.”
Are we helping students apply their knowledge in novel contexts beyond the worksheet, beyond the questions at the end of the chapter, beyond the quiz or unit test? Are we helping them develop those “soft skills” that really help us all do great things? Are we helping them prepare to live a life full of meaning, passion, curiosity, learning, hope, joy, …?
Too many colleges, he added, “don’t deliver on what they promise. You generate a ton of debt, you don’t learn the most useful things for your life. It’s [just] an extended adolescence.”
It is too late for most if this only happens at college… for those who are lucky enough to have such a college experience. I talk to far too many who have the goal of getting a job and making money, while others just drift aimlessly through 4 years of college just not sure what to do, how to contribute, where their talents lie, where their passion went… Sure, who can argue with finding a job and making money. But, that’s not living life. Those rewards are short-lived. Are we preparing the next generation to lead, to solve incredibly complicated problems, to care passionately, to embrace learning, to adapt, be humble, be wise, contribute…
Who do you want working for you? Who do you want leading a country? The ones with the highest SAT scores? The ones who display the shiny “I mastered the Common Core” badge? The ones who have stressed themselves to the brink simply to pad their resume with ‘community service’ and AP courses because it looks good to college recruiters?