Tuesday, May 11, 2010

We're Not In This for Tomorrow

"We're in this for the next decade," asserts a Warner executive.  "We're not in this for tomorrow." -- from Business Week article 'Atari's bet on home computers' (1981)
I've been pondering that statement for the last hour or so. Surely it was meant as: we're in this for the long haul. But in retrospect, it reads like: we're in this for the next ten years. And not more than that.

It's the latter reading of the statement that should concern educators.

Recently I was talking with my son's 3rd grade teacher about his future. And it occurred to me that what we were really talking about was how he would fare in middle school. And of course, middle school -- or something like it -- is part of the educational scheme. But is middle school really what we should be "preparing" a student for?

Today is the last day for seniors here at JC. They're all wearing their college t-shirts. And that's great. Because we prepared them for college. But is that really what we should be doing?

Or are we part of the short view?

Is it our job to prepare students to handle the next decade of their lives? Or is it our job to prepare them to handle whatever life throws at them -- whenever that may be?

Does our teaching have a half-life? Or are we teaching this generation so that they may teach the next?

In this age of entrance tests and exit tests and "college-level" exams and PSATs and SATs and HSAs and ACTs and endless Scantrons and gradebooks full of "data", are we really preparing our kids for something beyond school? And in the lack of poetry that those tests and data represent, are we stifling the poetry of all our futures?

I do fear that in our quest for immediate results and solutions that gauge their worth by their efficacy in getting students through the next hoop that we very well may be preparing our students for the next ten years -- but not at all preparing them for tomorrow.


  1. What is your philosophical outlook on teaching an AP European History class? Isn't this a "college-level" exam so that students can "pass the test" and skip it in college? Don't get me wrong, my sons pretty much started in the sophomore level in several core courses in college after passing several high school AP exams, but while in high school, they were just taking these courses to do just that, not because they loved the content.

    The real issue here is what the next level expects of the year before, and how are we preparing students for success as they move to the next level in life. Students in 3rd grade don't jump to the college level, but high school students are really close. When do we as high school educators or any level educator get the time or opportunity to talk and collaborate with the next level? I remember a handful of times in my 18 years of teaching where I actually sat down with other teachers and talked about what we expected of each other from grade to grade. I have never had the opportunity to formally meet with college professors to hear what they expect of incoming freshmen. I have an uncle who was chair of the English Department at Elmira College in New York for many years. He sadly retired because he realized how much the college was "dummying down" the English curriculum because college students weren't reading anymore. They were too busy reading summaries online. He ended a lifelong career on a depressed note. He said that he just couldn't stand the lack of integrity and quest for intellectual growth in the current college students.

    It's about time we as educators talk face-to-face and find out what the next level is doing so that we prepare students for every level of life. A third grader or a 11th grader deserves to know what is in his/her immediate school future. As long as there are HSA's, SAT's, ACT's, MCATS, AP tests, and whatever other standardized tests out there as measures for the next step in life, we teachers have an obligation to help students prepare for success on these tests and still learn about life. We can't control life, but we can at least have our eyes open for the next step in our educational future.

  2. @Christine

    Good points throughout.

    Yet, I find it ironic that it was the year that I didn't "prepare" my AP students for the AP test that they did best.

    Many students come out of college having no idea what to do next. This is at least in part because for sixteen or so years they've always been "prepared" for the next grade. And then, suddenly, there aren't any more grades.


  3. I think after we shake out all the institutional stuff we all love, to prepare students for "tomorrow", they need to understand the connection between hard work and success (success needs to be individually defined), as teachers we need to supply as much choice as possible to give them a sense of control over their structured institutional environment,and we need to work our hardest NOT to teach the creativity, flexibility, and curiosity out of them. This is nothing new, but I believe when students are spat out the exit pipe of the educational system, having these skills in tact will help them take on the non-structured "real world", without going into shock due to the lack of walls and instructions.


  4. I actually came across this on Bing, and I am happy I did.Well I truly see that the article is rather perceptive as it comes with plenty of great data. I will definately be coming back here more often.

    Good luck !


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