Education for civilization (part I)
By Raya Bidshahri
Let’s have a look at the future of humanity….
In the short term, we are living through an era of innovative disruptions and abundance of resources due to exponential technologies. The law of accelerating returns means that the very rate of technological growth will be growing by orders of magnitudes as we head towards the coming technological singularity.
As a result, in the long term, leading experts are predicting a future where we modify the genome of life on earth, colonize mars, have everyday immersive experiences in virtual reality and even upload our consciousness onto machines. These aren’t just wild speculations – entrepreneurs, researchers and innovators are actually getting us there on the path of human progress.
Yet, technological progress is half of what’s required for human progress and civilization-level change. The other half involves the intellectual progress of our species – something that all of us in education are responsible for. However, we need to ask ourselves some difficult questions.
Are we preparing our students for this kind of a radically new world? Are we teaching them the morals they need to use such powerful technology wisely? Are we inspiring them with the values required to be ambassadors of planet Earth?
The bottom line is that traditional curricula fail to prepare our students for a world of exponential growth and accelerating change. Traditional pedagogical models and educational systems are not designed to prepare our youth to contribute to civilization-level change.
Renowned education expert and Awecademy advisory board member, Marc Prensky, points out that “we educate our kids so they can better their, and our, world. Our children can be, and should be, improving their world—and improving themselves in the process—via a new approach that far better suits them and the needs of our future society. From the very start of their education, we should be fusing ‘thinking skills’ and ‘accomplishing skills’ into an education with a direct, hands-on connection to the world and its problems.”
Civilization-level change is all about using moonshot thinking to tackle humanity’s most pressing challenges at a global scale. Examples of revolutionary transformation at the civilizational level include eradicating poverty, promoting global enlightenment and even becoming a multi-planetary species.
Our students should be a part of this species-wide mission. In reality, many of your young minds have untapped potential and capabilities to contribute to human progress while they are students. The act of doing, can in return allow them to improve many of their 21st century skills – such as creative problem solving, collaboration and independent learning.
So how do we design our school systems to allow for civilization-level change?
Next week part II
Raya Bidshahri is a serial entrepreneur, writer, educator, futurist and keynote speaker. She is a founding member at SciFest Dubai as well as founder & CEO of Awecademy, a future-focussed educational organization that is disrupting traditional high school curricula and inspiring students to bring about civilization-level change.