Karen R. Lawrence, the President of Sarah Lawrence College, recently wrote an article for Forbes, "The Six Critical Abilities Students Need for Success After College". The six abilities are:
- think analytically
- express ideas through writing
- exchange ideas effectively through oral communication
- work independently
- accept and act on criticism
These abilities look very similar to the way I was educated at Hamilton College and to the educational objectives there since its founding in 1814. I can think of another twenty excellent, small liberal arts colleges where the objectives are the same as Sarah Lawrence and Hamilton and have been for 200 years (plus or minus). One can conclude that the objectives for the well educated graduate have not changed in the last 200 years.
If we look at how Ms. Lawrence framed the question, we see she had three questions:
- what are these critical abilities?
- how do we structure our educational approach to develop them?
- how can we evaluate whether our students develop these critical abilities, and do so in a way that allows us to continuously improve the value we deliver
If I were asked to frame the question in order to guide the education of future college students, I would ask these questions
- How will life be different for people routinely living to be 100
- What will be the nature of economic, social and spiritual activities in fifty years
- What role will government need to play, if any
- What will be the impact of globalization, networks and automation on society
I am reasonably certain that we need for our children to have a different set of skills than in 1800, 1900 or Ms Lawrence's analysis. Computer automation, AI and IOT combined is a technology tipping point probably more dramatic than the automobile.
One skill I am certain that is required, but absent from Ms. lawrence's list, is collaboration. Globalization, networking, understanding not knowledge, design thinking, customer experience, all of these require collaboration much more so than individual efforts.
I am also reasonably certain we need a concept of "economic self-sustainability" wherein the individual rather than the employer is expected to provide for a "family's" well being. Probably everybody needs a course(s) in 21st century "marketing", which includes, story telling, branding, video communications, etc. Perhaps we teach writing in the branding seminar and oral communications in story telling. We could analyze Aristotle and then brand him and develop his business model. I vote for "father of artificial intelligence".
I think every university and college should undertake an analysis similar to Sarah Lawrence. If the answer looks the same as 200 years ago, I respectfully suggest the paper be redone.
Thanks to @John_Menenzes for the link to Forbes.