In your opinion, what material markers are required to live a healthy life?
- A good salary?
- A steady full-time job?
- Owning property?
But what is the one thing that you need to achieve all of these? Traditionally, the widely held belief was that in order to succeed in life, one would need to achieve academic success in school. This was one of the only ways to secure a steady job within a big company and a decent salary.
What do you need to do to achieve these? Traditionally, the pathway to this golden future would be an academic success at school, leading to a place at a good university and then on to a high-flying job in a big company. But will that still be the case in the future? Is it even the case now?
The Digital Economy
According to Ade McCormack in his book ‘Beyond Nine to Five‘, traditional industrial models of work have started to replace more creative, collaborative and entrepreneurial working models. This system removes the more hierarchical models organisation
‘Over time, if your job can be done by a robot, it will be done by a robot‘
Our current age, defined largely by the digital economy has seen a decline in traditional, hierarchical models of organisation with top executives, managers and employees. Instead, the new economy is defined by a more horizontal model in which people don't have just one career or one single function. There a variety of new working opportunities, including freelance work, part-time employment, hybrid work and entrepreneurial forms of work that were not always available in the past.
With increasing levels of integration and globalisation around the world, we are seeing a rapid pace of technological advancement, migration and exchange of information. Accordingly the global economy and world of work is evolving, and we must each be able to adapt and find our place within this increasingly complex world.
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The Industrial Model of Education
According to McCormack, the education system has failed to catch up with these changes in the economy. According to him, our education systems is still based upon traditional economic models, where students are obliged to memorise and learn
are simply continuing in the grand industrial-age tradition of converting free-thinking pre-schoolers into compliant cogs ready to slot into a system that no longer has a place for them. He isn’t alone in this harsh assessment.
The educationalist John Taylor Gatto said in his acceptance speech for the New York City Teacher of the Year Award back in 1990 that:
‘The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders.’
He didn’t blame teachers or a lack of money – Taylor Gatto felt it was simply that the school model made true education impossible.
McCormack believes that in order to equip young people with the skills to do well in the future world of work, our education system needs to encourage risk-taking, promote self-ownership of one’s life, develop artistry, provide students with the tools to help them find their true path and encourage students to defend their ideas whilst also being open to new information and experiences. There is no place for conformity and risk aversion in this new world.
What is Success?
But before we rush to tear down the old system and replace it with one we feel will help students achieve success in the future, we should ask ourselves some questions:
Are the old measures of success still valid? Are high salaries, steady jobs and home ownership achievable or even desirable?
Or could there be other measures of a successful life? If we replace the word ‘success’ with ‘wellbeing’, how might that change the discussion?
In ‘Top Five Regrets of the Dying‘, a news article that has received almost 180k shares on social media, it is telling that every one of the regrets people have relates to failures in relationships with themselves and with their friends and family.
Failure to make enough money, buy a house or climb to the top of the career ladder don’t get a look in.