Preparing for Commodity Jobs

Speaking of change, I’m reading Open: How We’ll Work, Live And Learn in the Future by David Price and the author makes a couple of points early in the book that seem particularly relevant to the quest for change here in the overly-large school district.

From the introduction:

[T]he world has never before faced such a complex set of societal, economic, political and environmental challenges. They’re so complex that governments and corporations can’t fix them alone. Instead, they will increasingly look for user-generated solutions. This is why learning matters, and why how we learn has to change.

Learning happens in three locations: in formal education (schools and colleges); in the workplace, and in our home and leisure time (let’s call it the social space). While we’ve become smarter learners, progress has been uneven. In just ten years our learning in the social space has irrevocably changed, largely because it has become ‘open’. We are now learning more from our peers than we ever learned in school. We’re removing the intermediaries from every aspect of our lives so that we can directly deal with, and talk to each other in ways that have only become possible in the 21st century. We’ve even created our own ‘sharing’ economy.

Aside from some notable exceptions, however, learning in the workplace and in our schools and colleges remains static. [emphasis mine]

I’m wondering if that line in bold isn’t especially true of our students. For good and bad.

And this one from chapter 1 on the relationship between education and the economy, a connection made so often by the business folk pushing their reform agenda.

Gee and Shaffer [authors of a study Price discusses] highlight the difference between ‘commodity jobs’ – standardised, replicable and sold at a reasonable price – and ‘innovation jobs’, which require specialised, unique skills. Because it’s a relatively simple task to train workers doing commodity jobs, they can be sourced anywhere in the world. Gee and Shaffer argue that the US education system is still preparing students for commodity jobs, and thus facing overwhelming competition from developing countries , when it should be educating and training for ‘innovation jobs’, which are less easily outsourced. [emphasis mine]

Remember, standardized tests are used to assess readiness for “commodity jobs”.

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