Lasting, Meaningful Work

Print versions of newspapers are endangered species. In part, for that you can thank Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist. Craigslist, which I’m a fan of, has crippled print classified revenue. For the newly unemployed journalists this is a negative and painful turn of events, for the rest of us it should be a precautionary tale about the Information Revolution and our children’s educational futures.

The plight of print newspapers begs a question: In an Information Revolution characterized by increasing global interdependence what type of K-12 and higher education experiences will enable young people to find lasting, meaningful work? More specifically, what knowledge, what skills, what sensibilities will increase the odds that young people will avoid economic dislocation as a result of increasing automation and outsourcing? 

Too few educators are asking those questions.

The young, internet savvy students in my globalization course are familiar with foreign call centers, but are surprised to learn the extent outsourcing is taking. As a reminder that whatever data or services can be digitized and sent abroad for processing probably will be, I provide each of them with a one inch long piece of coaxial cable to keep in their pockets throughout their PLU experience. After distributing the pieces of cable, I ask them what they think the key ingredients of an outsource-resistant education are.

Initially at least, they stare at me blankly (51 seconds in).

After awhile though, the wheels start to turn, and they begin responding with thoughtful insights.

Instead of revealing their thinking, what do you think?

Historically, a part of the “American dream” was that children would enjoy an even better quality of life than their parents. Now though, many anxious parents wonder whether their children will enjoy their same quality of life. By themselves, high school diplomas, G.E.D’s., and even higher education degrees don’t guarantee anything. Just ask the journalists at the Christian Science Monitor or Seattle Post Intelligencer.

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