August 6th, 2016 // 1:33 pm @ Oliver DeMille
I have seen the future, and it is encapsulated in a new book: Passion-Driven Education by Connor Boyack. It will forever change how you think about your children’s education—and your own.
Okay, it doesn’t actually show us the future. But Passion-Driven Education is a masterpiece. It’s an idea whose time has definitely arrived.
Here’s how we got to this point. The old-style education of the 1950s through 2000s was based on rote memorization, multiple-choice standardized exams, bureaucratic presidential reports and programs like A Nation at Risk, No Child Left Behind, and Common Core, and a “big-business” educational mentality that focused on curriculum design (usually one-size-fits-all), teacher training, construction of school buildings, administrative budgets (sometimes increases, other years cuts), and a lot of politics thrown into the mix.
The educational bureaucracy managed to get its fingers into almost everything about education, except actually helping students learn—more effectively, with higher quality and true one-on-one help and individualized learning. A lot of teachers did the unheralded work of quality mentoring, but a majority of students fell through the cracks. Indeed, the emphasis was always on schooling, funding, and educating, while personal student learning was seldom a priority.
And great education was hardly ever mentioned. Mediocrity reigned.
Because of this baggage, right now education is at a fork in the road, and the old educational establishment is struggling to make sense of it. The fundamental problem is that since the GI Bill after World War II, the education industry has hitched itself entirely to job and career training. Before World War II, education was about raising future adults, citizens, and leaders. From Colonial America to Horace Mann in the 1850s and John Dewey in the first half of the 20th century, American education emphasized preparing the next generation to do as well or better than the current one.
But this all changed during the late 1940s and early 1950s: Schools turned their focus to job training. By the 1970s education was fully part of the labor sector—training young people, and middle-aged and older people as well, for jobs. Remove job-training programs and majors from today’s college campuses, and they’ll be ghost towns. High school is now largely focused on college or job prep as well.
The present challenge is that the economy has changed. Drastically. The United States is no longer in a perpetual growth economy. That distinction has shifted to China, India, and other parts of Asia. North America and Europe will most likely experience a slow- or negative-growth economy for many years ahead. Why? Simply because the Baby Boomer generation has now passed it’s peak buying years—it reached its apex in early 2007, and by 2008 it’s spending began to decrease. The economy responded with the Great Recession.
In short: If current trends continue, there will less demand for houses, products, and services for many years to come. As a result, the old economy is gone for good. A new economy, more globalized, more competitive, increasingly rough and tumble, is the new reality. This will last for at least three decades, according to the experts. Possibly five.
What passed as typical education for job- and career-training in the 1950s-2000s simply won’t work any more, at least not in North America or Europe. It will likely flourish in Asia; but most families in, say, Iowa or Wyoming or Virginia aren’t keen on relocating their young adults across the Pacific anytime soon.
All this boils down to a new reality: Unless something changes, people will buy fewer goods and services, so companies will hire less, jobs will be more scarce, and a lot more easily filled. Where does such a shift leave modern education, whose main focus is job training?
The answer is that education is now in a pickle. Most educators and schools (at all levels) are still using a teaching model very similar to what was used in the 1950s, and most of the educational establishment is refusing to change much—hoping that people won’t notice that diplomas and degrees just aren’t translating into lucrative jobs with good benefits like they once did. Expect more and more three-generation households, as young families find joblessness or underemployment incompatible with home ownership and consumer spending.
Past and Future Compared
Just to compare, the economy of The Employment Age (1945-2008) included the following main characteristics:
- Steady work (often with one company over the course of a career)
- Predictably rising pay
- 8-hour work days, 40-hour and 5-day work weeks
- Consistent growth of the middle class
- Each generation doing better financially than the last
(See more details on this era in, for example, The Future of Success by Robert Reich)
But we are now witnessing the rise of a new economic era. The emerging Age of High Risk is offering a different set of realities:
- Off and on work, lots of layoffs, turnover, and outsourcing
- Up and down income
- 12-hour work days for many who are lucky enough to be fully employed, 80-hour and 6-7 day work weeks
- Shrinking of the middle class, and growth of the elite and lower classes
- The next generation doing much worse financially than the last
The result is that the old model of education isn’t working for most people in the new economy. And this trend is only growing.
The next generation needs an education that will effectively prepare them for success in the new reality, the emerging new, global, high-risk, entrepreneurial economy of the 21st century. Anything less is a waste or a distraction. And since only a few schools are seeing the change and effectively doing something about it, a lot more parents need to get serious about education in these new economic realities.
Enter Connor Boyack. His book Passion-Driven Education is just what the doctor ordered. It is a realistic, practical, and well-thought-out call for a reboot of quality education. His message is timely and vital. His book accomplishes the following huge changes:
- It emphasizes personalized, individualized education that puts the student at the center of things—rather than administrators, bureaucratic planners, or the educational professorate. Think of it! The student as the centerpiece of education. This is both incredibly obvious and (given the current state of American education) truly revolutionary.
- It likewise puts learning—not schooling, not administration, not curriculum design/textbook publishing, not teacher training, not presidential educational programs and promises—but actual student learning at the forefront. This is tantamount to a mutiny from the typical modern education system.
- It then goes on to show that student interest, curiosity, passion, love of learning, and the innate enthusiasm to gain knowledge are not just afterthoughts—reserved for clubs, after school or personal time, or extracurricular activities—but the very crux of quality learning.
These three shifts are a masterful call for the kind of education that will actually work, that will put American learning at the forefront of education again—and that will prepare the rising generation for real success in the new economy.
Moreover, Boyack’s book also manages to get back to the heart of what education really is. Long before the focus was job training, education was about becoming. Becoming better: More effectively serving God, family, community, and nation. Education was about becoming your very best. It was about finding yourself, discovering your life purpose, and realizing you were born to serve other people.
This is a major part of the “passion” in passion-driven learning.
Consider the following passage from bestselling author Victor Villasenor about a girl he met who had once been sweet, kind, and service oriented, but after attending school for some time went through a drastic change:
“This girl had been completely educated away from her heart and soul! Her thinking, critical brain had become her only way of viewing the whole world!” (Beyond Rain of Gold, p. 330)
True passion-driven learning adds intellect to morality and the simple virtues, rather than replacing virtue and a heartfelt desire to serve with highbrow disdain for anything except credentialed sophistication, cosmopolitan values and careers, and intellectualism. Passion-driven learning is the real deal.
In all this, Boyack puts the “great” back into education. This is a 5-Star, Top Rate, Two Thumbs Up declaration on what education should be, what it can be, and what it needs to be in the years and decades ahead. Every parent in America should read this book. Every teacher should carefully study and internalize it. And every student should read it as a roadmap of what’s ahead. Passion-Driven Education is brilliant!