One of my grad school classes started up today, and I feel I need to label the experience as one of the more depressing beginnings to a new semester.
We talked at length about a book called A Whole New Mind. Excerpts were read and discussed; the overall gist was that America has gone through four major phases in our economic history (we all know of the Industrial and then the Information). According to the author, what we are now wandering into is the “Conceptual Age”, where basically, the most valuable commodity traded is the concepts and designs for products. We apparently need to harvest creativity rather than our production capacity or skills to get us through the next economic phase. Why? Well, because all of the other countries have stolen (by making cheaper, etc.) our production of anything else — even information! (Yeah, that’s right, many of the programs that we use are now coded overseas, too! Woohoo!) What a dismally different start to a semester course.
I sat there with a panicked mind: then, how am I going to teach my kids? How can I turn the currently accepted skills-based approach to education into something that creates designers? How many kids coming through high school will have enough creativity or enough higher-order thinking to take the self out of creation? How many can actually teach someone for that kind of economic situation? Can America survive on something as abstract as conceptualization? Is there even a skill related to that? I do not seem to have a problem with the diagnosis, but I certainly am concerned over the ramifications for the kids I am supposed to be preparing for the real world… can we even prepare them for something so abstract?
Where will America go?
I will nevertheless now pick the book up. Hopefully, I took the excerpted messages too harshly.