The Broader Professional Context - Trends
The National Intelligence Council identifies a wide variety of influences creating uncertainty and potential future conflicts (2017). Concerning trends such as climate change, the increasing gap between rich and poor, displaced people and weakening systems of governance require that people are able to act altruistically for the greater good. The exponential growth in technology, possibilities for robotics and automation of the workforce potentially disenfranchise large sectors of the population. Yet with the potential ethical demands, conflicts and challenges identified in the near future, it is a time when we more than ever need enfranchised people who can make sound judgments, or else we face the possibility of tyranny.
The conflicting outcomes of the trends identified by the National Intelligence Council require common human ethical efforts (2017). Technology and the growth in social media has led to a reliance on peers for information, a reduction in the quality and reliability of information and a focus on the trivial and fleetingly entertaining. The same developments that will enable us to advance in the fields of automation and biotechnology may also rob us of the capacity to make mature and informed ethical judgments.
Education may be able to influence some of the outcomes. There is a lot of talk about twenty first century skills. The foremost must be social justice in the context of developing our understanding of individual and collective duty to each other and to the planet. “Advances in technology will help boost productivity in developed and developing countries alike, but improving education, infrastructure, regulations and management practices will be critical to take full advantage of them,” (National Intelligence Council, 2017, p.14).
Advances in biotechnology and artificial intelligence will raise questions about humanity. An unemployed generation, plugged into social media is unlikely to be able to answer those questions.
In this environment I believe that education has two vital roles. Economic forces will naturally engender the creativity and problem-solving skills needed for the twenty-first century. But I believe the critical thinking and moral compass necessary to manage our advances will not necessarily come about naturally. The first role education plays is to develop a sound understanding of truth and the various interplays of truths. “Regarding the co-construction of knowledge as it relates to the educational objective truth: whose voice counts?” (OECD, 2016, p.21). Students need to be taught how to construct meaningful knowledge. This is directly connected with the use of technology which is already the main conduit of knowledge as well as the main conduit of false information. The second skill is an ethical ability to think about the common good, the environment and the effects of our actions on other people. Our education systems need to develop ethically mature and responsive citizens.
“Schools and teachers are increasingly faced with the challenges of educating and guiding students through the advantages and disadvantages of the virtual world, without always having the necessary skills themselves,” (OECD, 2016, p.21) and so another key component of education moving into the future is the quality of teachers. Well-rounded, highly educated moral thinkers are needed to influence our future generations of thinkers.
National Intelligence Council. (2017). Global trends: The Paradox of Progress. National Intelligence Council: US. Retrieved from https://www.dni.gov/files/images/globalTrends/documents/GT-Main-Report.pdf
OECD. (2016) Trends Shaping Education 2016, OECD Publishing, Paris. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/trends_edu-2016-en