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More or Less Accurate

Did you know that 65% of the jobs that will be available to our elementary students when they graduate have not even been invented yet?

cartoon of school as an assembly lineOr maybe you’ve heard the statement that 60% of children currently in kindergarten will be employed in jobs that don’t exist today?

Or possibly you know for sure that some similar large percentage of jobs our students will be doing at some vague date in the future (2035 seems to be very popular) are yet to be created?

More or Less, a wonderful podcast from the BBC World Service, is all about investigating statistical claims like this, and in a recent segment, they tried to track down the source of this particular number. They weren’t very successful.

So, will our children leave school into a world in which 65% of the jobs are brand new inventions? I doubt it. Nobody can prove this claim for sure, and we’ve not found any explanation of where the number came from or what the logic was behind it. Sources lead from the UK out to America and Australia and then hit dead ends.

One of the primary reasons that pundits and politicians toss around statistical myths like this is to reinforce their particular efforts to reform the education system. Scaring people with visions of millions of unemployable students might just work, right?

However, this discussion about future jobs dictating what students learn in their K12 years is totally wrong.

Certainly the world is changing in very unpredictable ways. And our education system, which in many ways is stuck in the 1950’s, needs to be restructured to reflect that unpredictability.

But school should be about much more than job training. The emphasis should be on kids gaining some basic life skills, and spending most of their valuable time exploring a variety of interests and ideas. If they discover a career in the process, terrific. But making that the primary goal of school is a crappy idea.

So, what does all that look like? Good question, and one that we should be discussing, without all the bogus statistics. And the More or Less people have a great suggestion for something to include.

As for what it tells us about what children should be taught, that’s far from obvious too. But here’s a suggestion. What about trying to teach some basic statistical common sense? It’s a useful skill, and our children can’t possibly be worse at it than than the grownups.


1 Comment

  1. Barry Dahl

    Bogus statistics have brought on a whole cottage industry in the Ed Change world. There’s so many of them out there that it’s hard to choose a fave, but this one is right up there. Cheers.

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