The Education Crisis

Amanda Slavin, Future of Learning Lead
June 14, 2024

In the face of a generational mental health crisis we have an urgent need to reimagine learning for a changing world.

When I was a child everyone used to ask us what we wanted to be when we got older. We used to say doctor, lawyer, veterinarian, astronaut! There were only so many possibilities made available to us. It was either what our parents told us, what our parents showed us or what we saw on TV or in books; grown-ups acted as gatekeepers of information. Now, our kids are exposed to an uncontrolled firehose of information and not even the adults know what jobs will exist in 10 years.

One of the most common grown-up phases I remember when I was 8 was “because I said so.” And that meant ‘this is the end of this conversation’. Even if you had something to share as a child, you didn’t have a voice. Your role was to be seen, not heard. Now, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. Kids have tools at their fingertips that let them shout their opinions from the rooftops to anyone who will listen with nothing to guide them on how to think and feel before speaking.

The Lost Generation

In the face of this crisis, instead of looking at changing the entire ecosystem around the learner, developing and investing in the very leaders who teach them, we blame teachers, we blame AI, and we blame each other. Our kids are left staring at us as we point fingers at each other without the skills they need to be successful in their own lives.

The Industrial Revolution model worked at one point. An education system designed to feed factories and the professional classes with useful citizens, cogs in the machine to pump out 40 hours a week of value, it made perfect sense! And yet it hasn’t been fit for purpose for decades and decades. We as educators, parents and even students know it’s not working. We as employers and employees and even customers know it’s not working. Being productive at all costs isn’t working but why?

Teach Humanity, Not Productivity

Technology has accelerated faster than ever before, and with the new internet forming right before our eyes (spatial reality, AI, blockchain), we will be outperformed and outpaced by machines… if we keep treating our kids like machines.

What we need is a significant paradigm shift. Not only do we need to start teaching our kids to develop their human skills, we also need a new mechanism that harnesses our educators human skills to deliver this learning.. This means we need new education for our educators, investing in them, and in the system from the top down and bottom up. We need to radically change the way we think about success in learning.

Rather than only focusing on outputs, we have to teach our kids how to be resilient, self-aware humans who also acknowledge and respect they are a part of a community of learners.

We need to teach them to work in team environments with people who don’t think like them, learn like them or even act like them! We need to teach them to love to learn. Yes, to love learning math, and reading but also to love asking questions, being curious and listening before they talk. We need to become guardians of the endless data that is reaching them. And that means we need to learn ourselves.

Nurturing Boundless Potential

As parents we need to reconsider what we call success. Are we prioritizing the process over the outcomes or are we doing everything to drive narrowly defined academic success and ignoring what makes them unique? We need to look ourselves in the mirror. Are we  providing good role models? Are we venerating learning and remaining curious? Are we listening before we speak? Are we throwing ourselves into work? Distracting ourselves by doom-scrolling TikTok?

When we think about the educational environment we create for our 8-year-olds, let's remember our own 8-year-old selves, our minds filled with endless possibilities, no bills to pay, no limitations set by adults. Put this child into our brave new AI world with the right skills and mindset, and the results will be incredible. It's time for us to reimagine what learning can be, creating a system that celebrates the unique potential of each child, fostering their creativity, adaptability, and resilience. We need to break the mould of what it means to learn.

We’ve created a reality where children are live blogging their journey through a 21st century global polycrisis with no roadmap and a 20th century education. It is not surprising the next generation are enduring a huge mental health crisis and chronic lack of hope. This wave of disfunction can only be solved by fundamentally changing the way our children approach life.
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Amanda Slavin, a renowned educator and Forbes 30 under 30 honoree, is a bestselling author and co-founder of LearningFREQUENCY. As a Cannes Lion award-winning community designer, she has increased engagement for top brands like Google and Coca-Cola through her co-founded company, CatalystCreativ. Slavin is also a co-founder of Runway Health and an advisor to over 20 startups, including HubSpot. With her expertise, she is a sought-after speaker, having delivered two TEDx talks on topics such as the future of personal connections, reshaping education and engagement landscapes, and creating more equitable learning environments.