Education and Predictions: 2019

Education and Predictions: 2019

Karen Gross 01/01/2019 8

Predictions are hard under any circumstances. For starters, for predictions to be good (and predictive), they must rest on certain assumptions remaining stable. And, in our current world (economically, politically, environmentally, psychologically), stability is hard to find. We live in a "wobbly" world on all fronts.

That said, a pundit needs to be worth his/her weight (and not in salt), so here are my predictions related to our educational system (from early childhood through adult education) for 2019 (with some other predictions tossed in for good measure, like in a recipe where there is a secret ingredient or two or three). Some of the predictions will be obvious to readers; others are more "out on a limb," something not new to me; perhaps these latter predictions are the best in that they get us thinking and perhaps reacting and acting.

Warning (like a trigger warning): The prediction picture isn't pretty. And the problem is that the effects of these predictions are not just for 2019; they have generational impacts.

  • There will continue to be an educational divide based on socio-economic status. (No shock there.) As more and more immigrants enter our country (assuming they can enter) and those immigrants and other disenfranchised peoples (in cities, on Indian Reservations; in rural communities) within our nation become school-aged and college-aged, we will see that the New Majority is not getting the best education possible. Depending on where you live in our nation, the education for low-income, minority and ethnically, religiously, culturally and linguistically diverse students will be sub-optimal. And, elite communities and elite private schools will continue to cream-skim to get just enough minorities (now actually majorities) not to be called out on the carpet for being indifferent. Not a pretty picture.

  • Despite the extraordinary efforts of some amazing teachers and administrators, our best and brightest teachers will not stay in the poorest and lowest ranked school systems. The work is hard, the pay isn't optimal and the toll on one's psyche is huge. Recent data support the flight of and paucity of teachers --- and students need stability in school when the rest of their life is in tumultuous. So, the absence of teacher continuity affects not just learning; it affects the stability of children. And, there is another problem that is related: we will not have enough new teachers from the New Majority and our best and brightest college graduates will not enter the field of education in record (let alone satisfactory) numbers. Not a pretty picture.

  • Employers will continue to complain that the graduates they are seeing as employees are not workforce ready; they lack, the employers will allege, the needed skills for the present and the future. Yet, the movement to partner among educators, colleges/universities and students will not suddenly become robust. (Partnering generally and cooperation will not be evident in many sectors.) There will be pockets of excellence to be sure but overall, we will continue to have a mismatch between education and the workforce. Indeed, many employers are suggesting that a key skill for workers is creativity. I would suggest that creativity is hardly the concept taught and reinforced in higher education where subject matter competency still rules the roost. We lose art, music and dance in the lower grades (and sometimes even there with budget cuts.) Not a pretty picture.

  • The students most in need of our understanding, our support, our guidance and our mentorship throughout the educational pipeline will not find those supports in abundance within or outside the school environs. College guidance counselors carry a caseload that is impossible to mangage in many regions. Mentors are willing in some instances but there isn't a good match. And, some groups will find mentors to whom they can relate in short supply. And, as the world advances technologically, some will be left further behind (although we will push them forward) because technology is not taught or accepted or understood. Technology will impact those in school but the people impacted will not control or have a say in design, operation, data generated by or security of the technology. Not a pretty picture.

  • There will continue to be school shootings and teen (and younger) suicides and drug overdoses. We will continue to see mental illness that goes undiagnosed and unattended to by professionals. And, we will see trauma in our students, both Big T and little t trauma that affects their learning, their memory, their health, their capacity to attach, their levels of disassociation and their happiness. And, trauma sensitive schools and trauma sensitive teachers and administrators and disaster relief educators will not match the need among the young (and old). Sadly, trauma is cumulative too; so, if it goes untreated, it can and does get reactivated down the road when the next trigger occurs. And, those who do this work and those who receive the benefits will carry the pejorative label: snowflake (which is actually a positive for me but that's another story). Not a pretty picture.

  • We will lack role models and civility on the regional and national level. From politicians to athletes to actors to corporate executives to doctors and coaches and teachers, we will see bad behavior of a wide ranging sort. Name calling, lack of decency (literally and figuratively), greed, sexual abuse (oft-uncovered from the past), egocentricity to the point of distraction. But, these incidents, which are not new to our nation, will be repeated through the media so we can't escape their view. Social media will be active in reminding us of what someone said or did that falls below that proverbial invisible bar of decency and kindness and fairness. And the media will not back off (well, in an instance or two they will if children are involved); if it bleeds, it still leads. And children of all ages and at all stages will see this. Not a pretty picture.

I want to end on a positive note --- a prediction yes but also more than that. There will be individuals and organizations across every sector that will be working hard to educate the next generation. Whether through direct services or contributions of money and time and talent, there are those who will work tirelessly to improve the world in which our children live. They will seek to insure that, epigenetics aside, the next generation will be healthier and happier and more able to thrive (not just survive) in our nation. These individuals will do more than talk -- they will act.

And that's really my positive prediction. For many, words are not enough; it is the time for action. If we need examples (whether or not you agree with the politics), look at the student survivors from Parkland. Look at Colin Kaepernick. Look at General Mattis or/and General McChrystal. Look at former President Jimmy Carter. Look at those who do more than speak truth to power (that is hard enough); look at those who give action to those words through deeds and activities that push that proverbial needle forward.

I am not pessimistic by nature. I am not even pessimistic by the bulleted (intentional pun) predictions above. I actually believe that, in the end, the good folks win. That is proven by history -- when one takes the long view. That said, I am impatient by nature. So, for me, 2019 begs for us to act -- to do things that will better our world. And we aren't just doing this for our children. We are doing it for our children's children and the generations that come after that. To use the phrase common in Canada when the weather is really really bad and the roads dangerous: "Chains Up." That means put on those chains and move forward. Carefully yes but stopping or standing or stalling isn't an option.

Happy 2019.

P.S. For those wondering if there is a book in all the above that I am writing (and carrying in those journals I carry with me everywhere) for 2019, the answer is yes. No shock there. And the tentative title: Gen Tt: Trauma Goes to School.

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  • Simon Pattison

    I'm glad I live in the age of the internet. I learn every day. I've never stopped being a student.

  • Ryan Harris

    University became less stressful the moment I realized it's just a day care on steroids

  • Ben Green

    Higher education just don't know how to handle students and educators.

  • Mark Stephenson

    I agree with you

  • Neil Harvey

    Good luck finding teachers who are qualified for this.

  • David Hayes

    We are living in a ridiculous society.

  • Alexander Campbell

    Education needs to be based on principles of direct democracy, libertarianism and no fixed curriculum.

  • Kevin Canning

    It is all so true...

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Karen Gross

Higher Education Expert

Karen is an educator and an author. Prior to becoming a college president, she was a tenured law professor for two plus decades. Her academic areas of expertise include trauma, toxic stress, consumer finance, overindebtedness and asset building in low income communities. She currently serves as Senior Counsel at Finn Partners Company. From 2011 to 2013, She served (part and full time) as Senior Policy Advisor to the US Department of Education in Washington, DC. She was the Department's representative on the interagency task force charged with redesigning the transition assistance program for returning service members and their families. From 2006 to 2014, she was President of Southern Vermont College, a small, private, affordable, four-year college located in Bennington, VT. In Spring 2016, she was a visiting faculty member at Bennington College in VT. She also teaches part-time st Molly Stark Elementary School, also in Vt. She is also an Affiliate of the Penn Center for MSIs. She is the author of adult and children’s books, the most recent of which are titled Breakaway Learners (adult) and  Lucy’s Dragon Quest. Karen holds a bachelor degree in English and Spanish from Smith College and Juris Doctor degree (JD) in Law from Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law.


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