This initial blog opens a conversation on a critical issue in education: What is the best way to prepare students for a future that is increasingly uncertain?
As a teacher of Economics, one of the most important lessons I try to convey to my students is the idea that businesses must continually adapt to changes in their external environment if they’re going to survive and prosper. Because the pace of change has been accelerating – fueled in part by wave after wave of disruptive technologies – this lesson has never been more important than it is today.
The notion that change requires adaptation is hardly new. Alvin Toffler, in his 1970 classic, Future Shock, wrote,
“To survive, to avert what we have termed future shock, the individual must become infinitely more adaptable and capable than ever before. We must search out totally new ways to anchor ourselves, for all the old roots – religion, nation, community, family, or profession – are now shaking under the hurricane impact of the accelerative thrust.”
Toffler’s prediction has held up impressively over time, especially in regard to education. As I look around, I can’t help but be impressed by the inability of our institutions to remain vibrant and productive. The S&P decision to downgrade U.S. creditworthiness was, more than anything else, an indictment of our political system, a well-aimed, but largely ineffective, attempt to break the partisan gridlock that has paralyzed our government. The performance of American students has been declining relative to students in other countries, especially in the areas of science, math, and technology, a trend that does not bode well for the American economy.
Institutions of higher learning are also operating in increasingly turbulent waters. We are, and will continue to be, challenged by changing demographics, new technology-based educational platforms, explosive growth in the for-profit educational sector, the federal government’s increasing propensity to expand its regulatory activities in higher education, and economic and social pressures to restrain tuition increases. As our environment becoming increasingly hostile, we will have to become infinitely more adaptable – to use Toffler’s phrase – in order to survive. Ironically, change may be the only constant in our lives.
In future blog posts, I’ll talk about the many ways the School of Business and Economics (SOBE) at Lynchburg College is adapting in order to provide an education that remains relevant in a rapidly changing and increasingly uncertain world.