DODGE: What Schools Should Be Teaching Our Kids In The 21st Century

David Dodge Contributor
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The world is currently undergoing one of the most significant changes in human history. Advancements in robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence will soon transform the world in surprising ways that will displace millions of jobs worldwide.

The good news is that it will also create millions of new industries and jobs that have the potential to lift communities out of poverty, vastly increase life expectancy and increase the quality of life for humanity as a whole.

Our problem right now is that our schools are doing very little to set our students up for success in this new and uncertain world.

Here are 5 things our schools should be teaching to get our kids as prepared as possible for this radical transformation:

1. Stop teaching memorization

Let’s start with what we should stop. Schools should eliminate academic content that emphasizes memorization. As tech entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk argues, the Internet, Alexa and Siri have obliterated the need for us to memorize things, as we can easily pull rote information on the periodic tables, the planets and other facts in a matter of seconds. Aside from the basic utility of memorizing math facts and vocabulary, we should shift our focus towards problem solving, critical thinking, inference and analytical skills.

2. Coding, Data Science and STEM

I am a big fan of Mike Rowe and his campaigns to push blue collar jobs, but we have an even bigger opportunity on the tech front with millions of unfilled jobs. In today’s marketplace, the US simply cannot graduate enough engineers fast enough, and the demand is growing exponentially, forcing companies to hire abroad.

In order to prepare our students for the massive changes imposed by technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning, disciplines such as coding and data science should become required curriculum for all K-12 students. States must create budgets that allow for salaries that will attract skilled engineers to teach our children. By the 3rd grade, children should be learning how to code using professional languages and tools, be exposed to advanced robotics and receive instruction on data science.

As one futurist put it: “Every company regardless of industry must become a technology company or die.” Technology now drives all industries and fields, including education, farming, law, business, education, and construction. As such, coding for kids and data science is mission critical for the next generation, and those that do not have exposure to it will be left behind.

3. Dive Deeper into Liberal Arts

This might seem surprising from a technology professional, but I believe that a liberal arts education and beleive that history, foreign languages, creative writing, literature, and fine arts should be a top priority. Language arts teaches critical thinking, analytical abilities and problem solving — all skills that will be in high demand in tomorrow’s world. Most importantly it teaches creativity, which is a critical success factor in tomorrow’s tech-driven economy.

4. Value Creation

Value creation is a term that describes the act of providing value for your customer, your employer, your company, your school or whatever person or organization that you serve.

For example, how can you fulfill or even exceed the needs of your employer? What can you do to not merely satisfy, but to delight your customer? What is a pain point in society or in your organization and what value-added solution can you invent to alleviate this?

While typically taught in MBA entrepreneurship classes, the skill of value creation needs to be front and center in every liberal arts education. Students with well-honed abilities in creating value will be hired, promoted, and given high-paying leadership roles in whatever industry they choose. In addition to building value creation exercises into their curriculum, schools can also implement internship and job shadowing programs during high school or even earlier.

5. Leadership and Character

While some may argue that a child’s character development should be relegated to home, I believe that schools need to do more and not less in this area.

Teaching grit, determination, resilience, empathy, gratitude, truthfulness, the “Golden Rule” and being respectful should be taught at every turn. Leadership opportunities should be built into all team projects, and collaborative exercises should receive special emphasis.

Research suggests that gratitude and positive thinking have also been positively correlated with career success. Think of it this way. If you were an employer, would you be more likely to promote a malcontent or an employee who is positive, confident and solution-oriented?

While the future is uncertain, I believe that our schools need to undergo a fundamental change as a result of the seismic shift in the Internet economy, robotic automation and machine learning. Future generations will marvel at all of the opportunities that lay dormant under our feet, and those who take advantage and develop career-ready skills will find an overwhelming number of high-paying and exciting careers that can transform their lives and the societies around them.

Let’s get our children ready.

David Dodge is the CEO of CodaKid, an online kids coding school that provides courses for students in over 100 countries around the globe.