When we become too focused on the product, we may miss the purpose. Hyper-focus on a product usually stems from a desire to produce results (sales, rankings, or scores). How many times in business or athletics have organizations become so transfixed on the result that lost is the purpose for which they entered the game? –ultimately resulting in personal or corporate demise.
Perhaps the same thing is occurring in education?
“Students are coming out of college focused either on money, or on nothing.” writes a student in her scholarship-winning essay, What Makes College Worth it? Her thesis basically states that education is failing to do its job, “The post-secondary education system today no longer sparks enthusiasm or excitement, but fails to inspire students from reaching their full potential.”
Another student entreats his elders to, “invest in those [the students] around you” in his college paper entitled, Teaching Creative Learning and Engagement in Life: A Petition. He goes on to say, “Your generation is teaching the next young and impressionable generation how to walk into a future you have not prepared for.” Wow, I hear a cry for help!
“Our modern day educational system is out dated,” writes a third student in his essay, The Flaws of Our Educational System. He astutely observes, “If a civilization fails in properly educating its’ youth, it will cause a plethora of problems down the road; that will ultimately lead to the devastation of that civilization.”
This is what Millennial Generation students are saying about their educational experience. Of course, these are only anecdotal accounts, yet these are not just vitriolic complaints, these students are attempting to make a cogent plea for better education through their high school and college essays. I think we should listen.
Yet there is a broader cry–and I will voice what I believe they do not have quite the language to express:
The young generation is clamoring for us to invest in them, mentor them, guide them, and truly help them how to find their place in the world. They feel ill-equipped to take on the society they will soon inherit.
Consider a few more of the students’ excerpts:
“I believe that the purpose of our educational system should be educating people about the possibilities that life holds for them, helping them figure out what they are good at, and equipping them to be successful in whatever they set out to do.”
“Colleges have given up on their students, not believing they can transform the world. Students are too comfortable, uninspired, and not eager to discover the cure for cancer or reform the economy.” If only they were to learn more and understand the gravity of the situation, they’d regain their confidence in bringing a change in the education system.
“Students should realize that college is not here to help them land great jobs but to broaden their way of thinking and discover how they can contribute to society.”
“Professors have ignored their main job, focusing instead on their own research and futures.”
“This paper is a petition for the reader, no matter your occupation, to think of yourself as a teacher.”
As the last quote asserts, this does not just fall on the leaders of the educational system alone. This burden falls on the shoulders of the elder generations that create the surface area which shapes our young: parents, government and business leaders. It falls on the shoulders of our nation.
There is quite a bit of research on the phenomenon of prolonged adolescence, to the extent that some researchers are calling for the establishment of an entirely new life-stage called “emerging adulthood,” that parents and institutions should cater to. Emerging adulthood is a period of life after adolescence where young adults are essentially having a “failure to launch” problem.
What if it’s actually a “failure to teach” problem?
I would submit the failure to launch is more a reflection of our failure, as a society, to prepare a young generation. Liken it to a cumulative GPA of how we’ve done over the last 30 years in cooperatively raising the Millennial Generation.
It’s a collective problem, which will take a collective solution. The emerging adulthood problem does not just fall on one group of people: parents, educators, government, or business. The responsibility falls on all of our shoulders including the Millennial Generation as well.
So what is the product? The results (metrics of college rankings, SOL scores, profits) or the student? Let us recall the purpose.
The hyper-focus on the metrics can miss the purpose–true development of our young–which could inevitability yield the demise of a nation. Perhaps we’ve been witnessing an insidious devastation for several decades to which our eyes are not yet opened. May we take note now to change the trajectory.
“There is no more critical indicator of the future of a society than the character, competence, and integrity of its youth.”
— Quote from Urie Bronfenbrenner PhD, a brilliant Jewish Russian-American developmental psychologist who contributed to the understanding of the interplay between the micro-human development process and macro-society.