The Russian Sputnik in 1957 made us realize we were in danger. The election of Trump in 2016 should cause a similar shock. Sputnik spurred the U.S. space program and forced public schools to make big improvements in STEM education. The election of Trump in a more perfect would force schools to make big improvements in civics education, but I’m not expecting Trump’s pick for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, to make that conclusion.
I believe, over time, civics education is destined to become more important than STEM education. The coming tsunami of technology will change everything — including how we see the purpose of public education. The premise of the book I’m determined to write, “Public Education In 2047,” is that Ray Kurzweil’s vision of the coming era of intelligent machines is correct. (Kurzweil doesn’t speculate much about the social / political impact of the rise of the rise of machine intelligence so he leaves a lot to imagine.) As I connect the dots, I foresee that a civics education that prepares citizens to stand up to the machines will become the central mission of public schools. Standing up to the machines will mean that humans will need to be united in effective democratic communities. Developing the capacity to contribute to the success of a democratic community will be key to humanity using the transformative power of technology to advance the common good. Schools will be evaluated in terms of students’ progress in increasing their capacity to be effective citizens. Thinking through what such a future educational program might look like is a fun goal for my book.
Each chapter in my book will be short — an appropriate amount of material for a 75 minute discussion. Chapter 1 says that in 2035, Congress Demands That Schools Develop Human Intelligence. This Act of Congress defines “human intelligence” and calls for a transformation of American education so that it will effectively advance the development of human intelligence. In Chapter Two explains what, in 2047, it means to be an “Effective Citizen.” At that time, the rapid transformation of machines will inspire students with many reasons to heartily embrace the goal of increasing their human intelligence and in gaining the capacity to be an effective citizen. In schools there will be postings that read something like this:
An Effective Citizen
An effective citizen is: Grounded, Knowledgeable, Aware, Thoughtful, Engaged, Insightful, Practiced, Empathetic, Respectful, Effective, Persistent, and Skilled.
- Grounded in history and science
- Knowledgeable about issues
- Aware of what is happening in politics
- Insightful as to what is important
- Practiced in independent thinking
- Empathetic with competing points of view
- Respectful and civil
- Effective in communication
- Persistent in following through what is started
- Skilled at contributing to the success of a conversation