Monday, October 24, 2011

Marching Backward into the Future

“We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”
- The Media is the Massage. An Inventory of Effects. McLuhan & Fiore. p74

Everything we look at is shaped by our experiences. We come from a 20th century perspective and it is incredibly difficult to imagine what the 21st century will bring. When I started teaching 20 years ago, could I have envisioned an iPod, a netbook, a Kindle? We had the beginnings of an Internet, but nothing like the global interactions of today. And yet it was my job to prepare those 6th graders for their future.

Those 6th graders are now about 32 years old. Do we feel the 32 year olds of today are not productive? Are they not capable of doing the jobs we need them to do? If I taught them to think and to write and to question and to explore, did I not prepare them for their future?

And what of my students of today? How are they prepared to meet their destiny? We live in this moment and our vision is shaped by what came before us. We can imagine what will be next, but all of of our imaginings are seen through the lens of our own histories. And each of us brings a different history to our predictions.

In the field of education there is much anxiety about the future. These anxieties are only compounded by the downturn in our economy. Is this because we didn’t prepare our students for what was to come? How can we make sure that our country will be led by a knowledgeable and capable workforce? Is technology the answer?

How do the innovators of today come up with these inventions? Where do they get the ideas that transform our world? Someone invented the iPod, the Kindle, the iPad. Where did they go to school? Who were their teachers? Did they march backward into the future or were they somehow turned around?