Knowledge Work and Schools

I’m finally reading the book Nine Shift after subscribing to the blog for the past year. It’s one of my preferred reads and the book puts much more of the blog in perspective.

One reason it has taken so long for me to read the book is that my local bookstore gave me a price of $(CA)90.00, which I confirmed two weeks ago at as $(CA)89.00. I finally checked and the list price was $(US)18.97, so I purchased the book from the USA. When I received it, the jacket price was “USA $29.00 – Canada $34.00 (go figure).

I won’t do a complete review now, but I highly recommend this book, which describes how 75% of our working days (nine hours out of twelve) will radically change by the year 2020. The signs are all here.

Shift One is that “People Work at Home”. As we shift from the Industrial Age to the Internet Age over the next decade, there will be more knowledge than manufacturing workers. I really like the definition of a knowledge worker, as it does not equate to someone working in an office.

Knowledge workers:

1. Are paid by their outcomes, what they produce, not by the time they devote.

2. Are only paid for products or projects that are valuable to the organization for which they work.

3. Bring something unique to the organization for which they work. Their value is not in being like other workers, but in being different.

4. Have a marketable set of skills.

If this shift to knowledge work is a certainty, and I believe it is, then our education system is woefully inadequate for what will be the majority of the workforce. Our schools are still designed for declining and soon-to-be-obsolesced factory workers. Teachers and students are not rewarded according to measurable outcomes; if they were, many teachers would not get paid, some students would graduate in less than 12 years and others would never complete their schooling. Students are not valued for being different but for conforming to the standard curriculum. Many, if not most, teachers are fearful of Internet technologies even though most high-paid work already requires Internet savvy. This is most evident with boys:

The Internet terrifies most teachers, and some boys know more about the Internet than do many educators. Boys also exhibit those accompanying attributes which go with a future dominated by the Internet, like taking risks, being entrepreneurial, and being collaborative. Thus they are leading society into the Internet age.

The one-size-fits-all school is a twelve-year sentence with no eligibility for parole, but the good news is that as the workforce changes there will be demands for more relevance in the education system and it will change. Unfortunately for those with children in our current outdated education system (as the one room schoolhouse was outdated 100 years ago), we have to work with what we have. So how do we keep our children motivated and help them develop skills for the Internet Age, when we all know that the education system is obsolete?

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