On the “Real World”

From the book, “Rework”:

Scratch the surface and you’ll find these “real world” inhabitants are filled with pessimism and despair. They expect fresh concepts to fail. They assume society isn’t ready for or capable of change. Even worse, they want to drag others down into their tomb. If you’re hopeful and ambitious, they’ll try to convince you your ideas are impossible. They’ll say you’re wasting your time. Don’t believe them. That world may be real for them, but it doesn’t mean you have to live in it.
…The real world isn’t a place, it’s an excuse. It’s a justification for not trying. It has nothing to do with you.

The “real world” argument is one that I hear often. When you advocate for meaningful change, I believe it is important that we try to identify what exists now and where we are going in the future. I do not believe in advocating for something that doesn’t or will never exist. I don’t ever use the “we are preparing kids for jobs that don’t exist” argument. But I do believe we have to prepare our students to deal with continuous change and adaptation

AJ Juliani puts it beautifully when he states the following in “Empower”:

This all being said, when the argument about the “real world” comes up in schools, I love these thoughts from Alice Keeler, that she shared in a 2015 blog post:

If we want to stand on the idea that “in the real world…. ” and use that as an excuse to break down relationships with students rather than build kids up, here are some real world truths.
In the real world, we look things up on Google.
In the real world, YouTube is one of the most popular tools for learning.
In the real world, collaborating is not cheating.
In the real world, finding information on the internet is a resource.
In the real world, my job does not ask me things I can Google. I need to use critical thinking.
In the real world, a lot of people show me a lot of mercy. I have forgotten my keys at home a million times and the secretary just let me in. I have forgotten to charge my laptop and my pay was not deducted. I have been late to school, and I did not get detention, the principal kindly covered my class. In the real world… there is a lot of MERCY!
In the real world, I use my phone for everything.
In the real world, I have choices.
In the real world, knowing spreadsheets is an important skill.
In the real world, I need to know how to clearly communicate ideas, not how to regurgitate information.
In the real world, I can use EasyBib for citations and Google Translate.
In the real world, not all adults do work work at home every night. In fact most adults I know, do not take their work home with them.

You can use the “real world” as an argument, but not as an excuse. But we also have to acknowledge that the “real world” changes, and hopefully gets better over time. The hope is that we help our students not only fit into and excel in current realities, but create a better version of them.