A Flawed Question

“For an eight-year-old, what is the best thing to study, given the choices of a career?”

How many times have we heard this question, and how many times have we struggled to answer it? The problem is that the question itself is fundamentally flawed. How so? The person who asks the question makes two faulty assumptions (in other words, presupposes two things): first, that there is such a thing as a continuum of education; second, that one can plan for a career years ahead of time. We simply can no longer make such presuppositions. Such things contribute to an anchor bias that is preventing us from considering our future impact (as ‘working’ professionals) in broader terms untethered from traditional, codified jobs and services.

I encountered a thoughtful comparison in a recent magazine article. A futurist had written about how difficult it had become to explain one’s job to one’s parents. He wrote, “I think you have to treat the world like one of those drone flights. Drones are small and, although quite feisty, can be blown about by the wind. Getting one to where you want to go involves setting a course, yes, but also reacting to the local conditions as you fly. Sometimes you’ll be blown one way, and sometimes you’ll be blown another, and you’ll never really ever be directly on course” (Business Life, Jun 2017, 26).

Admitting that our students (or that we ourselves, for that matter) are never directly on course is an important step in forming a framework that allows us to consider ‘what might be’ for our students, as they mature and engage in their journey with the world.

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