Looking to the future, missing the present

Wes Fryer had an interesting post yesterday, The Future is Unwritten. He said a lot of especially smart things (as usual) about changing policies to move beyond 19th century factory models of school. However, there was one part that got my mind spinning.

How do we prepare students for an unwritten future? Certainly we have to study the past, but as Steve [Jobs] also said in the interview, we can’t just be always looking to the past. We have to look to the future. We need to collaborate, create, struggle and build together now to develop and refine those skills which will serve us well in the uncertain yet amazingly exciting world of our present and future.

How often do we forget that all important present? There is no more “present” member of society than a child.

What if we stopped thinking about preparing children for the unwritten future and concentrated on their present. We’ve all heard the usual “we must prepare students for the global workplace of the future” mantra. But worse, schools make a practice of preparing students for the unwritten future only months or years away, and thus let opportunities of the present slip by.

Pre-Ks now better be able to recite the alphabet–no more finger paints and sandbox for our little achievers! Parents are told that their 5 year olds should be held back from kindergarten so they will be better able to compete in later grades. Fourth graders have to buckle down so they will be ready for middle school. Why is learning to multiply fractions important? So you can do well in pre-algebra! Middle school focuses on teaching kids research skills for high school. High school classes teach the 5 paragraph essay “for college” and how to write memos. Memos? What’s that?

If we turn every learning experience into preparation for something else, we just convince kids that what they do today isn’t important. Every day is the day that a kid might find his or her bliss, create something that didn’t exist before, or have an aha moment that changes their lives.

If change is the norm, it’s even more important to seize the opportunities of the present day.


3 Replies to “Looking to the future, missing the present”

  1. Good points, Sylvia. You are absolutely right. Carpe diem. We shouldn’t be so focused on preparing the future that we overlook the opportunities and JOYS of the present day and the present moment. This reminds me of one of my favorite Star Wars quotations, when Yoda is lamenting to Obi Wan the way Luke is always “looking to the horizon, looking to the future, never his mind on WHERE HE IS. What he is doing.” I agree we tend to justify too much educational suffering / medicine to kids with the argument that “you’ll need this for the future.” Often I think, tradition drives us more than actual needs outside the academic world.

  2. Sylvia,
    This post is wonderful. Whenver I am truly present and open, amazing possibilities arise…seemingly out of nowhere.

    The Secret Sits
    by: Robert Frost

    We dance round in a ring and suppose,
    But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.


  3. Great post, Sylvia. Too often we try to distract ourselves from the present, and outside forces (e.g., media) push for the same.

    Thanks for sharing the poem, Pete.


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