I have mixed feelings after reading the first 19 chapters in Future Shock. My first response like many that read this book is how eerie his predictions are now that I can look back in hindsight (in 2011) to a book that was released in 1970. I went online and typed in the search words ; Shock and predictions and found this recent article published last year, ‘Future Shock’ team issues predictions for next 40 years’ that looks back on Toffler’s predictions in Future Shock and reports on Toffler Associates predictions for the next 40 years. I am linking here for those of you that plan on sticking around for at least another 40 years…
I liked the beginning of the book and couldn’t stop thinking just how much of my life on a daily basis is a cliché of experiences representing Toffler’s ideas of disposable, transience, and novelty. Thinking about my life from the moment that I get up to the end of the day it was amazing to come to the realization that I am living in almost a perpetual and constant movement of temporary change…and yet, I have not felt that this change was overwhelming in my daily existence nor as fast paced as he highlights….ummmm. Actually it is quite the opposite as sometimes I get frustrated by the lack of change. I think that I am not feeling overwhelmed by change because as a society we have reached the place where fast paced temporary changes are taught to us and it just feels like that is the way it is done? Toffler pulled me into his Future Shock “argument” when he began his discussion on modular homes and automobiles. Toffler refers to the turnover of vehicles in the 1970’s (which is where I began to get hooked into this book). I didn’t realize how much stuff is disposable in my life and found this degree and the use of the word “disposable” quite interesting. The prediction is magnified even more so in 2011 when a huge part of society leases vehicles. I remember my father struggled financially to raise a family and only ever once owned a new vehicle that it took him his entire life to earn. We grew up as a family driving around in used vehicles and passing clothes on to the sibling beneath us. So, you would think that these changes would be overwhelming to someone like me right? And, yet, I never have seen change as anything but the way it is and the way it is done as part of living in a contemporary world. I like finding a new perception here and a chance to see the larger picture by reading about the world that I grew up in. I never really understood until now though”20/20 2011” hindsight in reading this book. I never realized the larger picture or how these examples tied to Future Shock and what was happening in the world around me. Or, why coping with change was even an issue to survival. It was interesting to take on new perception of evolution. It was almost hypnotizing how I was drawn into his theorizing on life; adaptability of life.
Now that I got those thoughts out of the way, the remaining focus of this blog will be devoted to Toffler’s chapter discussion on education. I have two points of view here. The point of view of a mother who has a little girl who started Kindergarten this year. And, the point of view of a doctoral candidate and longtime adjunct instructor in communication media.
My daughter doesn’t like school because she is totally bored by it. It isn’t challenging to her. It lacks technology and it lacks an intellectual stimulation for her. She enjoys the “friend” part and socializing but learning is coming easy for her. She is an only child with a dad who is a tenured professor in criminal justice and a great sense of humor. And, a mother who has been teaching 14 years as an adjunct in communication (me)and who loves art and music on the side. She has been with two college professors for parents that have never talked “baby talk” and have been careful not to treat her exactly like a “little adult”. She lives with teachers. She sees the value of education and that mommy and daddy teach students. She has been taught so much by us in five years in the way that she thinks and acts. She builds some crazy things out of Legos! And, has figured out some things on her own that have astonished us. It scares me that she will lose her intellectual curiosity and sense of humor now that is in a public school. It scares me that she will lose her growing sense of discovering her about who she “really” is and become the watered down version that she will find in public school. Reading Toffler, and watching the movie, Waiting for Superman last year, well, it scares me what is ahead for her. It scares me at how poorly public schools are stuck in a rut and lack diversity and individual pursuits and offer a product line education. Watching the movie, Waiting for Superman, and now reading Toffler, it is getting real to me the ways education in the U.S. is failing our children.
This past September my daughter’s kindergarten teacher told the parents during back to school night that she expects them to be little “robots”, yes, actually used the word “robots” and mimicked walking like a robot. She wants them to keep moving from assignment to assignment. The little five year olds are to come into the classroom and follow the a routine of putting homework in bin, pack up backpack in closet, go get crayons , go to assigned table and sit quietly with hands folder. She then proceeded to tell us that the little kitchen set and all the toys in the classroom should really be thrown away as there is no time for play and probably no time for using the playground. And, she doesn’t want them nagging about snack time. School isn’t about snack time. (And, they get snack time like fifteen minutes before lunch!) They are little robots and must get math, reading, etc. in each day. Where is the creativity? Where is the socialization? Where is the joy of learning and living and discovering how to learn? I feel myself getting anxious inside…here I am excited for her to be in school and enjoy learning in kindergarten and now, I am feeling sick to my stomach as I question to myself if I am having the wrong expectation about what kindergarten should be. Toffler discusses this scenario when he comments on the education of tomorrow being mass production and a centralized work place. Just as economic mass production requires large numbers of workers to assemble in factories, educational mass production will require large numbers of students to be assembled in schools. There will be demands for uniform discipline, regular hours, attendance checks and standardizing force (p.27).
Two weeks after school began when my daughter was already complaining that school wasn’t “fun” and it was instead “boring”. I called the teacher. She advises me that my daughter is not getting into “line” and by now should be mastering that her chair be pushed in every time she gets up. And, she is forgetting to grab crayons when she sits down first thing in the morning. All the other children have mastered the routine and she is the only one that hasn’t. So, the following weekend, my husband and I are “doing homework” with her which entails teaching her to act like a robot. And, essentially she is being taught to stifle any joy and develop behavioral skills that turn her into a little robot instead of behavioral skills to learn. We set up scenarios with her little table to practice fetching crayons and setting up scenarios so she remembers to push her chair under a table when she gets up! Toffler suggests that the educational system is changing but changing in ways to refine the current machinery, making it more efficient in pursuit of obsolete goals (p.405). I am reading these words on the printed page and Toffler is putting into words what I was feeling in the pit of my stomach since the night that I was sitting on my daughters little chair at her back to school night. She is but a number of many numbers in this school system. The teacher talked about the new reading series being introduced in her curriculum. And, again, Toffler’s words ring true to me. Schools are recycling education, masking it with a new reading or math book but the learning has remained basically unchanged. Toffler discusses that we not teaching children “how to learn”. We introduce new medium but we push out the same instruction. He cites a similar idea when he cites Psychologist Herbert Gerjuoy, “The new education must teach the individual how to classify and reclassify categories when necessary, how to move from the concrete to the abstract and back, how to look at problems from a new direction-how to teach himself. Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read’ he will be the man who has not learned how to learn. The educational system is broken as we aren’t teaching our children to be able to cope the world of tomorrow. We think we are because we are using technology in certain classrooms but, we aren’t using technology to allow our children to explore and learn how to learn. We use technology similar to how we use a book or other traditional means of learning (p.414)
Then, there is the other side of me. The doctoral candidate, long time adjunct professor side of me that wants to believe that there is hope and that the glass is half full opposed to quickly draining with a hole in it as Waiting for Superman and Future Shock have left me feeling. I want to be an instructor that uses technology to teach how to learn and be a conduit for self-education, not how to instruct. I do want to earn this PHD and be another instructor joining a broken education system that continues to push out today’s instruction for tomorrow’s world. I witness that now in a communication department that I teach out which is using technology similar to how my daughter’s kindergarten class is using it. Students aren’t being taught how to learn with the technology. Students are learning the same way with a new medium. Toffler discusses how millions pass through the education system without once having been forced to search out the contradictions to their own value systems, to probe their life goals deeply or even to discuss these matters candidly with adults and peers (p.417)
Milan Matijevic article entitled, “The New Media and Informal learning “makes a valid and applicable comment to Toffler when he discusses learning in the age of New Media in Education. The majority of teachers make large conceptual mistakes. They attempt to adapt the new media to the didactic paradigms which where characteristic of the schools in the 19th and 20th centuries instead of adjusting the schools to the conditions created by new media. We need to adjust the internal organization of school lessons to the communication opportunities by the new media. And, further the school that continues with the same methodological scenarios will not stand the pressure of life and work requirements and meet the expectations of its individuals. Matijevic’s article was written in 2011 and is suggesting the same thing that Toffler was suggesting in the 1970’s that schools need diversity and need to meet students’ needs by anticipating what tomorrow’s needs will be. It seems Toffler’s predictions still hold true today.
As I close, I understand what the direction and urgent need to make more education more about opportunities for new and different learning that leads to self-education. But how does one future level doctoral instructor make changes in an education system so entrenched with bureaucracy? Not sure. But, I know as a parent I can restructure what my daughter learns and how she learns at home and maybe that is the first step. As Toffler states, “it is not enough to refocus the system on the future. We must shift the time-bias of the individual as well (p.418)
Matijevic, M. (n.d.). The new media and informal learning. Digital Technologies and New Forms of Learning, 271-278.
Nasser, H. E. (Ed.). (2010, October 10). ’Future Shock’ team issues predictions for next 40 years . Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-10-14-futureshock14_ST_N.htm
Toffler, A. (1970). Future shock. New York: Bantam Books.
Waiting for superman [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dY6cXAo_nKs&feature=fvst