Non-Option Number 1: Education

My friend and futurist David Houle writes an interesting blog about tomorrow.  You know – that pesky day that keeps coming around?

He wrote recently about one of the things that is coming tomorrow: the transformation of education.  It has to transform, because the present model is based on a societal structure that has not existed for the better part of a century.  It is unsustainable, yet America will continue to require an educated citizenry ready to compete in a far better educated global society.  That means that we must change to a sustainable and effective model if your kids and grandchildren are to have a chance at the American Dream, rather than an American nightmare.  You can read David’s comments here and have a look at his new book here.

The remaking of the education field is not going to be a battleground; it is going to be a war.  It is structurally like the healthcare field, in that there are powerful entrenched interests more focused on themselves than on the outcomes for customers (i.e. students and patients).  For example, there are the recipients of endowment money, tenured faculty, book publishers, housing interests, food service companies, insurance companies, the construction industry – the list is long and all are welded to their self-interest in the status quo.

If you doubt the resistance to change that you’ll see as transformative forces on education increase, just recall the attempt at healthcare reform in 1993 led by Hillary Clinton.  To be sure, part of the resistance was the early stages of the now familiar M.O. of Republicans, opposing anything proposed by a Democratic president, even if they think it is a good idea and even if they had sponsored identical legislation.

The biggest resistance, though, was from the entrenched interests in the industry, like Big Pharma, hospitals, the AMA and the most powerful resistors of all, the medical insurance giants.  The reprise of that resistance was played out in the first Obama term over what came to be known as “Obamacare.”  (Side note:  Republicans will live to regret having coined that term, intended as a mean-spirited, derisive moniker.  That is because Americans will come to embrace Obamacare as a wonderful first step of healthcare reform that serves them well.)  Those special interests don’t want their boat rocked because it carries a never-ending cargo of gold to them.  So it is for those affiliated with education.

Furthermore, even those who are a part of the education industry and who put the best interests of students first will be stressed when evicted from their comfort zone, because the fundamental human reaction to change is fear of the unknown and resistance.

But, like healthcare, education needs a do-over, if for no other reason than because costs have escalated to such a high level that it is priced out of reach of too many of the people it is supposed to serve.  And for the lucky ones who get a college degree, too many are left with crushing debt equivalent to the price of a house you bought, this coupled with un- or under-employment.  Here’s a parody of what our graduates are facing, link courtesy of David Houle.

That leads us to the question once again: What America do you want?  Yesterday’s America in all venues including education is not an option and tomorrow will come.  Now is the time to decide what we want our future to be and what we need to do to in order to create that America.  If your kids and grandchildren are to have a chance, our failing to reform and enhance education is a non-option.

Copyright 2024 by Jack Altschuler
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