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The Future of Learning

One of the primary reasons we launched Shafer…Power! was to ensure our children were learning through fun, creativity and adventure.  (I don’t know about you, but Tiger Mom freaks me out.)  In fact, I’d like to share a few thoughts on the topic of learning and education and would be interested to hear your feedback.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on education, however, my mother says I have a strong sense of intuition and she is never wrong. (insert smile here)

Let me start by saying I do not believe our educational system is broken.  It’s merely under duress.  In my opinion, learning should begin at the home…and therein lies the problem. We’re a busier, more distracted nation which forces us to rely more and more on others to educate our children.  And when our kids are being taught, it’s all about the test score.  For more insight, check out Race to Nowhere

Another Disclaimer: I have no involvement with this film, although I really did enjoy it.  Also, I had no idea high school kids consumed so much Starbucks.

I’m also very curios about this higher education bubble and whether or not it is real.  If it is true – and students are receiving less value from their higher priced degree – then something’s got to give.  For example, If the average student loan debt at graduation is around $25,000, what does that mean for future students whose tuition costs are increasing at 6-8% (sometimes 10%) per year?  And what sort of jobs are available to them?  I can tell you this, I’ve never seen such a large response from college graduates when we posted a babysitting job a year or so ago.  Just how long would it take to pay off $25K of student loan debt, not to mention credit cards, on a babysitter’s salary?

So I took these concerns to my family and friends…and pretty much anyone else who would listen…to get their thoughts on the future of learning.

After lots of dialogue with said family, friends and strangers (the group included a teacher, homeschooling parents, an unemployed engineer, a grad student and several successful entrepreneurs) it is apparent the winds of change are blowing.  I don’t have a crystal ball, nor can I predict the future, but the status quo is about to get turned on its head.  Oh, education in its current format will never go away…but for those who want their children to be engaged in learning and not just preparing for the test…I think we’re on the brink of something entirely new.  And I sure as hell hope it’s fueled by fun, creativity and adventure!

Are we on the right track with the way our kids learn today?  Are they enjoying the learning process or has it become a job for them?

Next: June’s AdVenture: Neighborhood Taco Wagon

Previously: The Bottom Line: May, 2012

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16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dan J. #

    Dear Paul,

    Harvard is 375 years old. Get over yourself.

    Dan J.

    May 30, 2012
  2. Ann #

    I agree with your assessment the “one size fits all” approach no longer works. We send our two young children to different schools to meet their respective needs. I think summer camps are another way to supplement unique learning styles as there are a lot of different options available these days.

    May 31, 2012
  3. Jen #

    Life-long learning begins at birth and happens in many different ways. What may work for some, does not necessarily work for others and it’s our responsibility as parents to try and understand what the best fit is for our children. Jen

    May 31, 2012
  4. Maria #

    What we need is more water, dirt, sticks and cardboard boxes…and duct tape.

    May 31, 2012
  5. csf #

    …and more cowbell!

    May 31, 2012
    • If Bruce Dickson wants more cowbell, we should probably give him more cowbell!

      May 31, 2012
  6. Christine #

    I think it is possible that we are in the beginning stages of an education revolution — one that recognizes that we all have different gifts, skills, and aptitudes, and that the current education system can feeling confining and draining. Many parents I talk to see that their kids would thrive academically and emotionally in certain classes or settings, and these parents would love to help their kids develop the skills that their child most enjoys using. However, I think that parents are afraid that if that don’t follow the generally accepted approach of having their kid obtain a high school degree (based on a broad curriculum) and an expensive college degree, that their kids won’t find jobs. This is a very valid concern! I think it is these concerns about future employment that drive the current education model. Entrepreneurship and bosses at smaller businesses taking a “bet” on kids with skills they need that don’t necessarily have the right degrees are key ingredients that I think might get the snowball rolling….

    May 31, 2012
    • The fact that most children are being educated in the same way, even though they have unique gifts, skills and aptitudes is the crux of the issue. Let’s focus on understanding strengths early on and putting kids in programs that provide them the best chance to leverage their creativity, have fun and win.

      May 31, 2012
  7. Mike #

    Mr. Shafer, I actually found an article (link at the bottom) about the Blue School that was featured in Race to Nowhere (I saw the movie last year) and it stated, “tuition for students in kindergarten through third grade is $31,910 a year.” While the program sounds incredibly intriguing, I think we need to find/create programs that both challenge our children (kill standardized testing) and don’t break the bank. The reason we let other people educate our children is because it’s affordable and allows us to continue working.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/15/nyregion/at-the-blue-school-kindergarten-curriculum-includes-neurology.html?_r=1

    May 31, 2012
  8. Paul, this is something I’ve struggled with for years. I think public education, especially in California (46th in the nation…yay!) is going the wrong way. I read a lot of Annie Murphy Paul’s blog posts via Facebook (Brilliant…The New Science of Smart) and I think she and people like Jonah Lehrer show that kids need time to daydream, perform hands-on learning, etc. versus learning how to take a test. As for higher ed, I think we do have a bubble. A $25,000 loan is a monthly repayment of $250-$300 depending on your interest rate. That’s a pretty high fixed expense for someone starting out, especially if your field is not business or science/engineering. Students have to be more savvy about the career fields they choose and the colleges they attend. Ultimately, if students get smart and refuse to go to schools where they have to take out such large loans, prices will ultimately have to come down.

    May 31, 2012
    • Thank you Kirsten. I just liked Annie Murphy Paul’s page on Facebook and look forward to reading her stuff. I think 17 and 18 year old kids just don’t know any better when considering a college. Hopefully, they’re getting lots of guidance but even then, those debts are just paper debt and it’s too late before they realize what they’ve done.

      May 31, 2012
  9. Heather #

    Kathleen & Paul, my sister shared your blog with me as we’re doing a similar project with our kids. We look forward to following your journey!

    June 1, 2012
  10. AR #

    Nice vehicle for learning. No, we are not on the right track with the way kids learn today. Perhaps you and your kids can come up with something during your entrepreneurial journey?

    June 1, 2012

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