What will I do after high school?

Reading Time: 8 minutes

From Cogswell Polytechnical College in San Jose, California, Dr. Deborah Snyder and John Duhring, authors of a new higher education series in advance of their upcoming book, tentatively titled “Old School, New School, No School,” they provide a new perspective on what higher education means and how it can be more effectively experienced across the globe.

From farm to factory to office

By Deborah Snyder, PhD and John Duhring, Cogswell Polytechnical College, San Jose, California

When higher education is viewed as a process, to be practiced at any time, in any place, its institutional touch points take on new dimensions. In particular, the process of stepping beyond a circle of friends and family, of adapting to professional life, becomes a cultural imperative. As societal needs change, so does the process of guidance and testing as they are applied to future generations.

Consider the three fundamental shifts in institutions of higher education: preparation for agrarian societies, the transition to industrial organisations and the emergence of “knowledge workers”. That we can categorise these three indicates how stable the role of higher education continues to be across centuries of cultural development. Depending on the needs of society, students have been offered suggestions for how to live well based on what has worked in the past. In general, the sons and daughters of each current generation are always afforded the best opportunities imaginable by the generations that immediately precede them.

In agrarian times, higher education was the exclusive domain of the elite classes. Typically, royal, religious and privileged families sought out tutors and counselors for their sons and daughters to address issues as they arise. Since that time, young students have been expected to acquire skills for use in later life. They developed their identities. They built alliances. They addressed challenges. With prosperity came a need to cultivate the offspring of elite classes. Modern colleges were invented to broaden the reach of the most sought-after dons, counselors and tutors.

Mennonite farmer going to town, near Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Mennonite farmer riding to town, near Lancaster, Pennsylvania

The systems in place at Cambridge and the Ivy League still draw from this heritage. They continue to pass along elite status to new generations, even as layers of new leaders have emerged from outside traditional elite classes. Most preparation for work was done outside of formal schooling systems. Children learned what they needed to know, acquired the skills they needed to develop and discovered how they fit in from parents and their local communities.

The Industrial Revolution brought with it the needs for more decisions made by more people in positions of authority. Fortunes were made by tycoons whose background was anything but elite. The children of these captains of industry fought for elite status but not without struggles. The world they were entering, of transportation, communications and commerce, did not map well to the elite professions of law, clergy and recitation of the classics as they were taught in colleges. To develop the talents needed by society, a new kind of university emerged, from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to Carnegie Mellon and Stanford University. These focused on practical application of science in everyday life.

Practically speaking, farming communities across the United States saw trucks and tractors change their way of life. They saw the future for their children was no longer on the farm, but in factories. These factories included machine shops, offices and manufacturing all in one locations. Universities were established to develop engineers and factory managers. As industries transformed how people lived, the system of education featured the time clock, rows of desks or work benches and other characteristics of factory life. Colleges were part of a “weeding out” process that facilitated talent selection. By this process, some outstanding young talent could be identified and provided a path to elite status. Promising students could aspire to managerial positions. Sophisticated enterprises required huge capital investments to bring all functions under one roof.

Cutaway drawing of the Evening Star Building at 11th and Pennsylvania Ave(Click to expand image)
Cutaway drawing of the Evening Star Building at 11th and Pennsylvania Ave, Washington D.C. in 1922 (Click to expand image)

The Second World War highlighted how increased coordination and communications fueled growth in large organisations. Mass communications created mass markets, which enabled mass production. No longer did engineering, sales and service functions operate under the same roof as manufacturing and assembly lines. Servicemen who had experience managing logistics by moving divisions around the globe joined the work force as “knowledge workers”. Many never set foot in factories. Offices became the predominant workplace. The in-box became the new time clock and the benchmark for measuring performance. And, with the advent of computers and networks, office work propelled international coordination, supply chains and distribution networks.

Colleges grew not only to explore and grow academically- they churned out professionals across a spectrum of specialties so as to supply the needs of businesses large and small. An academic degree signaled a certain amount of capacity and potential. Hiring organisations, typically the largest companies, took promising graduates into their training programmes. Increasingly, an international work force challenged organisations to “outsource” factory work, stimulating economic development across the globe.

From the office to the enterprise itself

The world of work, of workers and workplaces has already changed almost beyond recognition when viewed from an “office” perspective. It is now mobile, global and creative. Work is done as needed, where needed. Alliances are formed and missions defined at a pace inconceivable using outdated mass-market, “command and control” parameters. Higher education is called upon repeated as more professionals than ever live by their wits. Their imagination becomes their biggest asset- not their upbringing, their brawn or their past achievements. Each enterprise can be defined as any coordinated project. The tools to support the enterprise are no longer fixed, which enables a return to heterogeneous working environments. Agriculture, health care, manufacturing, education: virtually all industries are becoming “smarter”, enabled by intelligent devices as well as a highly-skilled worldwide work force.

Driving this astonishing rate of change are the rapid development of new technologies and the impact of their adoption. The leading US private equities firm BlackRock, with over $4 trillion under management, identifies the sweeping nature of the changing world our children are stepping into. They point to three trends that support the increased importance of higher education, both within schools and in the wild.

Trend 1: The rate of new technologies reaching saturation. It took air travel nearly 50 years before it became a ubiquitous service available to all. The same level of adoption has been achieved by smartphones in under 10 years.adoption_of_tech_no_title trend1

Trend 2: Businesses are becoming more efficient through the application of new technologies. Among the top 1,500 US stocks over the past 35 years, those successfully managing their effective inventory levels to 0% has grown from 750 to over 300.top15_no_title trend 2

Trend 3: While automation is replacing workers in low-skill, highly-repetitive jobs, industries are seeking more highly-skilled, creative professionals. These adaptive, imaginative individuals will employ higher education throughout their careers, whether on their own, with their peers or with institutional assistance.labor_no_title trend 3

Machines work, networks play

How do colleges and universities continue to provide the best possible adaptation model for becoming a professional? Critics have emerged to offer powerful analysis of the current model. William Deresiewicz, the author of “Excellent Sheep”, has ignited a firestorm at elite universities.

While he offers no solutions, he cries out for a shift to a more fluid and personal exposure to life outside of college, to mobilise the talents of students across all strata of society. Rather than perpetuating a meritocracy, he suggests students offer far more than they are asked to reveal during their academic careers. He is struck by students and parents who invest their resources trying to do a million things to meet the expectations of others. He suggests they delve more deeply, to commit themselves to their own higher education. He puts his finger on the issue that students are the ones who must learn, who must perform, who must adapt in order to achieve.

In essence, he is saying, “Each individual student has a choice. You didn’t have a choice when you were 11, but now you do. Even though the chance of changing institutional structures is small, it’s worth trying. You can decide to not follow the direction that your training has sent you in.” In other words, students need to figure things out for themselves.

And the best way to figure things out is in a classroom? The library? The football field? These, after all, are where traditional colleges and universities have invested their resources. In “College Disrupted”, Ryan Craig describes college priorities in terms of the 4Rs: research, ratings, real estate, and rah-rah (football and branded sports). In the traditional college model, students pay for their education, with very little accounting for their competencies, beyond a grade point average. A college degree, he suggests, is a weak proxy for the achievements that are sought after by employers. He suggests that services like LinkedIn will soon automatically match competencies described in user profiles with job postings. On LinkedIn, outsourced recruitment services do the match-making and derive revenue by successfully placing candidates at hiring institutions. Craig suggests we are not far away from educational institutions being paid primarily from placement fees, rather than tuition (College Disrupted: The great bundling of Higher Education – Watch Video).

Outside of traditional colleges and universities, non-accredited “boot camps” have sprung up to help retrain and retool college graduates for the kinds of careers provided by today’s growth organisations. They have the task of convincing potential students, many of whom have degrees, jobs and families, to quit working at what they  were doing for 3-6 months, pay thousands of dollars, and get on the fast track. Increasingly, they are moving towards both immersive and online experiences, with the potential for employers to sponsor learning experiences.

Udacity’s innovative “nanodegree” programmes are another step in this direction. Their curriculum for Android developers is very low priced, but yields critical signals to employers, who then pay for access to the best students. Note the messages Google embeds in their promotion of the Android Nanodegree.

The work world they depict can hardly be described as an office, a factory, a building or machine. It is a world of dynamic networks. Designing these, playing in them, and providing services through them describes the employment opportunities that have been largely unmet by traditional colleges and universities.

“The next billion people coming online will interact with the internet for the very first time using only a mobile device. There are so many people who are consumers of technology, but it’s so much more powerful to be a creator of technology. Everyone has unique experiences and strengths. They can draw on that and use that to identify problems in their community. They can then use technology to solve them. You can imagine something that you think should exist and you can actually go and build it.”

What is known as the Maker movement illustrates the growing interest of people around the world to move from being passive users to active creators. Two new college programmes that embrace a “maker” orientation are the Stanford School and the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy at USC. The Stanford group states in the manifesto their intent to inspire multi-disciplinary teams through the process made famous by IDEO, called Design Thinking. This approach is distinguished by small teams that observe behaviors and imagine new possibilities that are at the same time desireable, feasible and viable. The process matures through building prototypes on the ideas that generate data to support their further development and distribution.

Technology-enhanced work such as this cries out for accredited institutional support. It is not about completing assigned work, but about imagining something new and then going about the tasks required to complete it. This describes industrialisation at an individual, self-directed level. Far beyond coming to grips with the ideas of those who have come before, this new view embraces each individual as capable of joining others, bringing their knowledge, skills and passions to life through collaboration in order to make an impact.

The intersection of creativity and technology

If institutions of higher learning are designed to prepare the next generation for the world they will be facing, then the current traditional college experience deserves careful scrutiny. Does a curriculum designed to produce office workers make sense for an increasingly mobile work force? Higher education has always been about using available technologies to do what is needed by society. Neuroscience provides overwhelming evidence that adaptability is as much

When universities organised themselves to prepare the children of agrarian societies to leverage the technology provided by factories, an era of labor-saving equipment blossomed and city life was transformed. In that era, learning was treated as a function of memorising a set body of knowledge. Undergraduate students were considered repositories of what they had learned.

When institutions of higher education turned their attention to the needs of office workers, data processing took center stage alongside the development of computer systems. The age of consumer services and international supply chains was born. Large populations moved to a new life in suburbia. In preparing for that world, students were treated more as calculators, scientifically evaluating the decisions needed by far-flung organisations.

In the world we live in today, the meteoric rise of services like Wikipedia (media), Kickstarter (finance), Uber (transportation) and AirBnB (housing) illustrate the speed of self-organising economics. Increasingly, institutions of higher education are empowering students to design and build in order to learn. In the process, the higher order of coordination, teamwork and communications made possible with networked technologies opens the doors to new ways of life, increased understanding and unprecedented levels of problem solving. Students, while undergraduates, can leverage a staggering array of new technologies to build that future. The full-stack cultures that emerge will solve problems that could never have been addressed before.

Prior segments in order listed below:

How Technology Is “Democratising” The Future Of Learning

Adapting To Higher Education: The Identity Struggle

From American Scholar To Global Player

Old School, New School: Anatomy Of A Lecture

Step Into The Future Of Higher Education

Of Sketches, Compositions And Flow: Evaluating Higher Education

A Leap In Consciousness – Discovery In A Digital World

Do you like this post?
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From Cogswell Polytechnical College in San Jose, California, Dr. Deborah Snyder and John Duhring, authors of a new higher education series in advance of their upcoming book, tentatively titled “Old School, New School, No School,” they provide a new perspective on what higher education means and how it can be more effectively experienced across the globe. From farm to factory to office By Deborah Snyder, PhD and John Duhring, Cogswell Polytechnical College, San Jose, California When higher education is viewed as a process, to be practiced at any time, in any place, its institutional touch points take on new dimensions....

Reading Time: 8 minutes

From Cogswell Polytechnical College in San Jose, California, Dr. Deborah Snyder and John Duhring, authors of a new higher education series in advance of their upcoming book, tentatively titled “Old School, New School, No School,” they provide a new perspective on what higher education means and how it can be more effectively experienced across the globe.

From farm to factory to office

By Deborah Snyder, PhD and John Duhring, Cogswell Polytechnical College, San Jose, California

When higher education is viewed as a process, to be practiced at any time, in any place, its institutional touch points take on new dimensions. In particular, the process of stepping beyond a circle of friends and family, of adapting to professional life, becomes a cultural imperative. As societal needs change, so does the process of guidance and testing as they are applied to future generations.

Consider the three fundamental shifts in institutions of higher education: preparation for agrarian societies, the transition to industrial organisations and the emergence of “knowledge workers”. That we can categorise these three indicates how stable the role of higher education continues to be across centuries of cultural development. Depending on the needs of society, students have been offered suggestions for how to live well based on what has worked in the past. In general, the sons and daughters of each current generation are always afforded the best opportunities imaginable by the generations that immediately precede them.

In agrarian times, higher education was the exclusive domain of the elite classes. Typically, royal, religious and privileged families sought out tutors and counselors for their sons and daughters to address issues as they arise. Since that time, young students have been expected to acquire skills for use in later life. They developed their identities. They built alliances. They addressed challenges. With prosperity came a need to cultivate the offspring of elite classes. Modern colleges were invented to broaden the reach of the most sought-after dons, counselors and tutors.

Mennonite farmer going to town, near Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Mennonite farmer riding to town, near Lancaster, Pennsylvania

The systems in place at Cambridge and the Ivy League still draw from this heritage. They continue to pass along elite status to new generations, even as layers of new leaders have emerged from outside traditional elite classes. Most preparation for work was done outside of formal schooling systems. Children learned what they needed to know, acquired the skills they needed to develop and discovered how they fit in from parents and their local communities.

The Industrial Revolution brought with it the needs for more decisions made by more people in positions of authority. Fortunes were made by tycoons whose background was anything but elite. The children of these captains of industry fought for elite status but not without struggles. The world they were entering, of transportation, communications and commerce, did not map well to the elite professions of law, clergy and recitation of the classics as they were taught in colleges. To develop the talents needed by society, a new kind of university emerged, from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to Carnegie Mellon and Stanford University. These focused on practical application of science in everyday life.

Practically speaking, farming communities across the United States saw trucks and tractors change their way of life. They saw the future for their children was no longer on the farm, but in factories. These factories included machine shops, offices and manufacturing all in one locations. Universities were established to develop engineers and factory managers. As industries transformed how people lived, the system of education featured the time clock, rows of desks or work benches and other characteristics of factory life. Colleges were part of a “weeding out” process that facilitated talent selection. By this process, some outstanding young talent could be identified and provided a path to elite status. Promising students could aspire to managerial positions. Sophisticated enterprises required huge capital investments to bring all functions under one roof.

Cutaway drawing of the Evening Star Building at 11th and Pennsylvania Ave(Click to expand image)
Cutaway drawing of the Evening Star Building at 11th and Pennsylvania Ave, Washington D.C. in 1922 (Click to expand image)

The Second World War highlighted how increased coordination and communications fueled growth in large organisations. Mass communications created mass markets, which enabled mass production. No longer did engineering, sales and service functions operate under the same roof as manufacturing and assembly lines. Servicemen who had experience managing logistics by moving divisions around the globe joined the work force as “knowledge workers”. Many never set foot in factories. Offices became the predominant workplace. The in-box became the new time clock and the benchmark for measuring performance. And, with the advent of computers and networks, office work propelled international coordination, supply chains and distribution networks.

Colleges grew not only to explore and grow academically- they churned out professionals across a spectrum of specialties so as to supply the needs of businesses large and small. An academic degree signaled a certain amount of capacity and potential. Hiring organisations, typically the largest companies, took promising graduates into their training programmes. Increasingly, an international work force challenged organisations to “outsource” factory work, stimulating economic development across the globe.

From the office to the enterprise itself

The world of work, of workers and workplaces has already changed almost beyond recognition when viewed from an “office” perspective. It is now mobile, global and creative. Work is done as needed, where needed. Alliances are formed and missions defined at a pace inconceivable using outdated mass-market, “command and control” parameters. Higher education is called upon repeated as more professionals than ever live by their wits. Their imagination becomes their biggest asset- not their upbringing, their brawn or their past achievements. Each enterprise can be defined as any coordinated project. The tools to support the enterprise are no longer fixed, which enables a return to heterogeneous working environments. Agriculture, health care, manufacturing, education: virtually all industries are becoming “smarter”, enabled by intelligent devices as well as a highly-skilled worldwide work force.

Driving this astonishing rate of change are the rapid development of new technologies and the impact of their adoption. The leading US private equities firm BlackRock, with over $4 trillion under management, identifies the sweeping nature of the changing world our children are stepping into. They point to three trends that support the increased importance of higher education, both within schools and in the wild.

Trend 1: The rate of new technologies reaching saturation. It took air travel nearly 50 years before it became a ubiquitous service available to all. The same level of adoption has been achieved by smartphones in under 10 years.adoption_of_tech_no_title trend1

Trend 2: Businesses are becoming more efficient through the application of new technologies. Among the top 1,500 US stocks over the past 35 years, those successfully managing their effective inventory levels to 0% has grown from 750 to over 300.top15_no_title trend 2

Trend 3: While automation is replacing workers in low-skill, highly-repetitive jobs, industries are seeking more highly-skilled, creative professionals. These adaptive, imaginative individuals will employ higher education throughout their careers, whether on their own, with their peers or with institutional assistance.labor_no_title trend 3

Machines work, networks play

How do colleges and universities continue to provide the best possible adaptation model for becoming a professional? Critics have emerged to offer powerful analysis of the current model. William Deresiewicz, the author of “Excellent Sheep”, has ignited a firestorm at elite universities.

While he offers no solutions, he cries out for a shift to a more fluid and personal exposure to life outside of college, to mobilise the talents of students across all strata of society. Rather than perpetuating a meritocracy, he suggests students offer far more than they are asked to reveal during their academic careers. He is struck by students and parents who invest their resources trying to do a million things to meet the expectations of others. He suggests they delve more deeply, to commit themselves to their own higher education. He puts his finger on the issue that students are the ones who must learn, who must perform, who must adapt in order to achieve.

In essence, he is saying, “Each individual student has a choice. You didn’t have a choice when you were 11, but now you do. Even though the chance of changing institutional structures is small, it’s worth trying. You can decide to not follow the direction that your training has sent you in.” In other words, students need to figure things out for themselves.

And the best way to figure things out is in a classroom? The library? The football field? These, after all, are where traditional colleges and universities have invested their resources. In “College Disrupted”, Ryan Craig describes college priorities in terms of the 4Rs: research, ratings, real estate, and rah-rah (football and branded sports). In the traditional college model, students pay for their education, with very little accounting for their competencies, beyond a grade point average. A college degree, he suggests, is a weak proxy for the achievements that are sought after by employers. He suggests that services like LinkedIn will soon automatically match competencies described in user profiles with job postings. On LinkedIn, outsourced recruitment services do the match-making and derive revenue by successfully placing candidates at hiring institutions. Craig suggests we are not far away from educational institutions being paid primarily from placement fees, rather than tuition (College Disrupted: The great bundling of Higher Education – Watch Video).

Outside of traditional colleges and universities, non-accredited “boot camps” have sprung up to help retrain and retool college graduates for the kinds of careers provided by today’s growth organisations. They have the task of convincing potential students, many of whom have degrees, jobs and families, to quit working at what they  were doing for 3-6 months, pay thousands of dollars, and get on the fast track. Increasingly, they are moving towards both immersive and online experiences, with the potential for employers to sponsor learning experiences.

Udacity’s innovative “nanodegree” programmes are another step in this direction. Their curriculum for Android developers is very low priced, but yields critical signals to employers, who then pay for access to the best students. Note the messages Google embeds in their promotion of the Android Nanodegree.

The work world they depict can hardly be described as an office, a factory, a building or machine. It is a world of dynamic networks. Designing these, playing in them, and providing services through them describes the employment opportunities that have been largely unmet by traditional colleges and universities.

“The next billion people coming online will interact with the internet for the very first time using only a mobile device. There are so many people who are consumers of technology, but it’s so much more powerful to be a creator of technology. Everyone has unique experiences and strengths. They can draw on that and use that to identify problems in their community. They can then use technology to solve them. You can imagine something that you think should exist and you can actually go and build it.”

What is known as the Maker movement illustrates the growing interest of people around the world to move from being passive users to active creators. Two new college programmes that embrace a “maker” orientation are the Stanford School and the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy at USC. The Stanford group states in the manifesto their intent to inspire multi-disciplinary teams through the process made famous by IDEO, called Design Thinking. This approach is distinguished by small teams that observe behaviors and imagine new possibilities that are at the same time desireable, feasible and viable. The process matures through building prototypes on the ideas that generate data to support their further development and distribution.

Technology-enhanced work such as this cries out for accredited institutional support. It is not about completing assigned work, but about imagining something new and then going about the tasks required to complete it. This describes industrialisation at an individual, self-directed level. Far beyond coming to grips with the ideas of those who have come before, this new view embraces each individual as capable of joining others, bringing their knowledge, skills and passions to life through collaboration in order to make an impact.

The intersection of creativity and technology

If institutions of higher learning are designed to prepare the next generation for the world they will be facing, then the current traditional college experience deserves careful scrutiny. Does a curriculum designed to produce office workers make sense for an increasingly mobile work force? Higher education has always been about using available technologies to do what is needed by society. Neuroscience provides overwhelming evidence that adaptability is as much

When universities organised themselves to prepare the children of agrarian societies to leverage the technology provided by factories, an era of labor-saving equipment blossomed and city life was transformed. In that era, learning was treated as a function of memorising a set body of knowledge. Undergraduate students were considered repositories of what they had learned.

When institutions of higher education turned their attention to the needs of office workers, data processing took center stage alongside the development of computer systems. The age of consumer services and international supply chains was born. Large populations moved to a new life in suburbia. In preparing for that world, students were treated more as calculators, scientifically evaluating the decisions needed by far-flung organisations.

In the world we live in today, the meteoric rise of services like Wikipedia (media), Kickstarter (finance), Uber (transportation) and AirBnB (housing) illustrate the speed of self-organising economics. Increasingly, institutions of higher education are empowering students to design and build in order to learn. In the process, the higher order of coordination, teamwork and communications made possible with networked technologies opens the doors to new ways of life, increased understanding and unprecedented levels of problem solving. Students, while undergraduates, can leverage a staggering array of new technologies to build that future. The full-stack cultures that emerge will solve problems that could never have been addressed before.

Prior segments in order listed below:

How Technology Is “Democratising” The Future Of Learning

Adapting To Higher Education: The Identity Struggle

From American Scholar To Global Player

Old School, New School: Anatomy Of A Lecture

Step Into The Future Of Higher Education

Of Sketches, Compositions And Flow: Evaluating Higher Education

A Leap In Consciousness – Discovery In A Digital World

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