Bits and Bytes: Fight or Flight

Preface. Inspired by “Five Minds for the Future” by Howard Gardner, Harvard psychologist and author of twenty for books, and “How to Bring Our Schools into the 21st Century” by Claudia Wallis and Sonja Steptoe, contemporary writers with degrees from the ivy league, I share my insights on the globalized job market.

The words hi and bye have been replaced by Wi and Fi. Our era is evolving faster than ever recorded. Every aspect in our lives has changed with the advent of technology. Even the poorest villages in any given third world country have access to a cell tower- access to Wi-Fi. Today, we can video chat with anyone around the world in full 1080p quality for free, thanks to Messenger and Starbucks wifi. Today, we can float to work in autopilot electric Teslas and trust a complete stranger without any verbal communication to take grandma, familiar in only her native tongue, to her appointment. Technology has forever changed communication making the world a closely knit community. Cultures, religious sects, and any word used to differentiate and divide society is seriously endangered. Today, we are one. We are all connected. With advances in nearly every area of our lives, it is imperative we make respective advancements in education, namely how society, as a whole, “bequeaths” education.

In grandma’s era, formal education was the pedestal to success. In our era, however, formal education is merely the widely accepted method to equip one with the tools to attack the workforce. The sharper the tools, the better the chances one has to dominate cut-throat competition. Thus, it is vital that schools reflect on industry requisites when creating curriculums. Memorizing the periodic table, internalizing trigonometric equations and writing FRQs(free response questions) on the Pequot War in row by column matrix classrooms do not prepare students to enter today’s workforce. Instead, students develop concrete reasoning rather than the more-valued abstract thinking. Schools can dramatically revolutionize their teaching methods by nurturing students in a global-industry-driven environment which implements objective coursework, encourages proactive cooperation and instills the habit of learning.

Coursework. Teaching to prepare students in dealing with international colleagues can be only achieved once our curriculum does not hold implicit biases over others. For example, in elementary math, US students are taught ancient imperial measuring systems while students from the the rest of the world are taught the metric system. Thus, by nature, students in the US have a tendency to feel intellectually more capable than students from other nations. This sense of pride is misleading. On average, when compared to their international peers, US students rank far under top ten in math, sciences and even arts(Ryan, American Schools). Schools in the United States can easily change this. Instead of spending two years learning world history, if students spent two years analyzing what effect the current economic, political and even social status of any given country has on the world, students will be more apt to understand the global workforce. Not only will such coursework by design have to be objective but also students will be more inclined to learn topics which impacts their present and future lifestyles.

Cooperation. Today, peer pressure is synonymous with underage drinking, social acceptance, and any word with a negative connotation used in the context of changing one’s identity. Peer pressure, however, is inevitable. In some point in time, every student will have to bridge their family roles with their social ones. For most, it’s a drastic change. As early as middle school, kids in the United States start desiring fade haircuts, Yeezy shoes and acquiring over a thousand followers on Instagram. Schools play a huge role in nurturing such social environments.

Today, classrooms with students facing each other function like the workers on the 1908 Model-T assembly line. Yes, students are facing each other but with hardly any interaction. Everybody minds their own business. Instead, in an environment where students are constantly incentivised to share thoughts, work collectively as a team for most assignments and are encouraged to do quantifiable actions which relate to “giving” outside the classroom, students will not only share high self esteem but also inspire each other to perform better. An integral part of being considered an asset requires one to constantly engage and outperform- both of which can be internalized by the right classroom environment.

Learning. There is a rumor amongst students: companies are looking for leaders. This is the reason why high school students commit to multiple extracurriculars hoping to show college and job recruiters their “leadership” experience. However, companies are looking for more than leaders; they are looking for creators. Employers are looking for individuals who are versatile to thinking outside of the box. Thinking outside of the box, simply put, means to approach everything with “what if.” It means to think beyond current facts, trends and accepted notions. Today, students are encouraged to maintain a perfect GPA by memorizing “xyz.” The mind, however, is not optimized to store ideas but to come up with them. With concrete thinking, as curriculums promote today, learning is viewed as a chore. Every class feels like a drag. But with abstract thinking, learning is just a byproduct as part of the thinking process. Schools can promote abstract thinking by focusing on existential aspects of ideas rather than internalizing the ideas themselves. Doing so, students will have a chance to understand the “why” whilst also be able to think of better alternatives. Abstract thinking is a powerful tool, vital to staying above the cut-throat-competition in any industry.

My Take. If there’s one thing I learned in high school as I discovered myself and where I wanted to fit in the global economy, it would be my passion to create. In high school, I prioritized spending time with people more than spending time with books. I invested my time behind extracurriculars: football team, student government, and TEDx just to name a few. In my after-school endeavors, I observed that most leaders in essence are followers of a former leader. However, the few who choose to pave their own path and create complete alternate routes are those who stand out, who other leaders follow. The same concept is applied to those who “made it” in the global job market. Those who are able to identify a bubble, create a need and optimize their returns before others, are the ones who dent and dominate the economy. Being a maverick at heart is certainly rewarding.

The modern workforce rewards those who have mastered their skill. A skill is mastered by working hard to achieve it. To most, this means pushing their limits, working more hours and simply getting things done. The time a student invests in grade school could certainly foster an environment for him/her in the global workforce. Companies no longer want 4.0s. They want 3.3s with work experience. What if work experience came with the diploma?

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, remarks that the world is transforming from a “mobile-first” era to an “AI(Artificial intelligence)-first” era. No doubt AI will automate more jobs than ever before, and faster than ever before. As the “working at Mcdonalds” option diminishes, the gap between those who are considered skilled and those who aren’t only increases. To truly hone a skill in our era, one needs to constantly seek out opportunities and be results-oriented. Thus, being in the right setting for the developing generation is important. Schools which create environments designed to constantly improve the fundamentals of any profession-learning, collaborating, thinking- will catapult the spartans of 21st century into the increasingly competitive globalized job market.

-I wrote this for my first semester english class.