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This issue of the IAE Newsletter
is the last of the series on Education for Student’s Futures.
Education for Students' Futures
Part 19: The Future through Quotations
College of Education
University of Oregon
"We may not be able to prepare the
future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for
the future." (Franklin D. Roosevelt; 32nd President of the United
“The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the
ability to look at the world for him/herself.” (James Baldwin; American
novelist, playwright, and civil rights activist; 1924-1987.)
“Human history becomes, more and more, a race between education and
catastrophe.” (H.G. Wells; English science fiction author; 1866-1946.)
The quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt captures two important ideas:
Our world is changing and we do not have as much control over
these changes as we might like. Think about the time of Roosevelt’s
Presidency. He began his Presidency in 1932, near the height of the
U.S.’s Great Depression. He died in office in 1945, near the end of
WWII. There were huge changes in the world during that time.
We should provide our children with an education that prepares
them for change—that provides them with the flexibility and
capabilities to deal with unforeseen events and circumstances. The pace
of change in our world increased rapidly during the Industrial Age that began about 250 years ago, and still more rapidly since the Information Age began in 1956.
To me, these two ideas suggest that we should do our best to make
accurate forecasts of what will come from the rapid changes in our
world that have been going on and show no signs of slowing. Our
educational system should help prepare students for these types of
changes, but also give them knowledge, skills, and flexible habits of
mind that can help them to adjust to unforeseen changes. We know, for
example, the number of well-paying middle class jobs is declining and
that an increasing number of jobs are being done by robots and/or being
outsourced to other countries.
For many years I have been collecting quotations
that resonate with my own views (Moursund, 2015). Each conveys a
message that seems important to me. Each quote is from the past, and
each is designed to pass on insights and wisdom to the future. As I
read from my collection of quotations, I am always amazed by how smart
their authors were!
I think of each quotation in my collection as a very short story and I
often make use of the quotations in my writing. This final newsletter
in the Education for Students’ Futures series consists of some
future-oriented quotations from my collection. For each, I provide a
short commentary that represents some of my beliefs about the future of
education. The paragraphs after the Roosevelt quotation given above
provide an example that I replicate several times in the remainder of
Rights of the Child
“Mankind owes to the child the best it has to give.” (United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child, 1959.)
“Education must be increasingly concerned about the fullest development
of all children and youth, and it will be the responsibility of the
school to seek learning conditions that enable each individual to reach
the highest level of learning possible for her or him.” (Benjamin S.
Bloom; American educational psychologist; 1913-1999.) Also see http://chapters.rowmaneducation.com/15/788/1578862434ch1.pdf.
“The most dangerous experiment we can conduct with our children is to
keep schooling the same at a time when every other aspect of our
society is dramatically changing.” (Chris Dede; American computer
educator and futurist; from written statement to the PCAST panel, 1997.)
I believe that our current educational system and most of the on-going
attempts to reform it are backward looking rather than forward looking.
They focus on improving and doing better most of the same things we
have been doing in the past. They do not focus on how the world has
changed and the very rapid changes that continue to occur.
As I have pointed out in my IAE newsletters 145 and 146,
the future will provide all students with teaching machines that can
access much of the collected knowledge of the human race and provide
high-quality interactive (just in time, when this is appropriate)
instruction. We can prepare students for this future by giving them
instruction and practice in learning in this new environment. In this
type of instruction, students learn to pose researchable questions,
search for and then select credible and valid answers, and understand
and use the information they are retrieving.
What People Do Better than Computers
“The ability to deal with people is as
purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee and I will pay more for that
ability than for any other under the sun.” (John D. Rockefeller;
American industrialist and philanthropist; 1839-1937.)
"The Gross National Product does not include the beauty of our poetry
or the intelligence of our public debate. It measures neither our wit
nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our
compassion nor our devotion. It measures everything, in short, except
that which makes life worthwhile.” (Robert F. Kennedy; American
Education is a human endeavor. It is far more than preparing students
to score well on a state, national, or international test. Indeed, I
believe that our current emphasis on high-stakes tests is seriously
damaging our educational system.
Education has many generally accepted goals. For one example, see the Appendix: Goals for Education in the United States in Common Core States Standards for K-12 Education in America
(Moursund & Sylwester, 2013). All 14 goals listed there are
more “lofty” than scoring well on a few high-stakes tests. For example,
compare learning to learn and becoming an independent, self-sufficient lifelong learner with scoring well on high stakes tests.
The success of IBM’s Watson computer in the TV game of Jeopardy
suggests that we can now build computer systems that can outscore
students on these types of tests (Moursund, 2/9/2011). Of course, that
would be a silly use of research and development dollars. Since its
success in Jeopardy, IBM has been investing heavily in developing
computer systems that can work with humans in helping to solve medical
and business problems (Moursund, 9/23/2012). A future-looking
educational system will prepare students to work effectively with such
computer capabilities rather than trying to learn to compete against
The basic issue is that humans can do many things better than
computers, computers can do many things better than humans, and the two
working together can perform better than either alone. Therein lies the
future of education.
Learning by Being Involved and Doing
"I hear and I forget. I see and I
remember. I do and I understand." (Confucius; Chinese thinker and
social philosopher; 551 BC-479 BC.)
“We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does,
but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the
human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of
experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher's
task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for
cultural activity in a special environment made for the child.” (Maria
Montessori; Italian physician, educator, philosopher, and humanitarian;
“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” (Dale Carnegie; American writer and lecturer; 1888-1955.)
“Nothing could be more absurd than an experiment in which computers are
placed in a classroom where nothing else is changed.” (Seymour Papert;
South African/American mathematician, computer scientist, and educator;
I like to ask children, “What did you learn in school today?” and “What
did you do in school today that was fun?” I am bothered by how often I
hear answers suggesting school is boring, school is not fun, and
similar disparaging remarks. When students tell me something that they
studied that day, I ask the student to teach me some of what they
learned. I often detect little enthusiasm or interest in the topic on
the part of the student. I am reminded of the Dale Carnegie quote given
We know that people learn by doing things that are of interest to them.
Some of what we teach in school immediately empowers students and is
inherently (intrinsically) interesting and applicable in the “here and
now” of a student’s life. Much is not.
Thus, it is not surprising that many students would rather engage in
computer-based or face-to-face social networking, browse the Web, play
computer games, or carry on other activities that provide active
engagement and are more interesting and fun than what the teacher is
saying and doing.
For myself, I find learning to be both fun and hard work. How can we
design our educational system to be sufficiently fun and intrinsically
motivating so that it will challenge students to overcome the obstacle
of the necessary continuing hard work? We see this occurring in
competitive sports, music and dance, and many other learning situations
in which students choose to participate and seek to improve their
knowledge and skills.
I am reminded of a College of Education Dean whom I met a number of
years ago. His doctorate was in Music Education. When he was in the
sixth grade he convinced his principal that he should be allowed to
drop his math class in order to provide more time for studying and
practicing music. At that time in his life, music seemed much more
important than math. (I presume he eventually took more math or learned
it on his own, as being a Dean certainly requires more than elementary
“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a
subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.”
(Samuel Johnson; British author and father of the English dictionary;
If Samuel Johnson were alive today, he would likely add to his statement:
Skills also are of two kinds. We know a
skill ourselves, or we can learn to do it and to use the requisite
tools humans have developed.
Johnson might also note we know how to earn money to hire someone to do
the things that we know need to be done, things that we do not have the
knowledge, skill, time, or inclination to do them ourselves.
I think the following quote reaches far back in our history to provide a suitable ending to this newsletter and to the series:
"The secret of change is to focus all
of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new."
(Socrates; Greek philosopher; circa 469 BCE-399 BCE.)
David Moursund is an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Oregon, and coeditor of the IAE Newsletter.
His professional career includes founding the International Society for
Technology in Education (ISTE) in 1979, serving as ISTE’s executive
officer for 19 years, and establishing ISTE’s flagship publication, Learning and Leading with Technology.
He was the major professor or co-major professor for 82 doctoral
students. He has presented hundreds of professional talks and
workshops. He has authored or coauthored more than 60 academic books
and hundreds of articles. Many of these books are available free
online. See http://iaepedia.org/David_Moursund_Books. In 2007, Moursund founded Information Age Education (IAE). IAE provides free online educational materials via its IAE-pedia, IAE Newsletter, IAE Blog, and books. See http://iaepedia.org/Main_Page#IAE_in_a_Nutshell.
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