Learning facts, changing work, and Basic Income

I was intrigued by this article in Education Week titled, “Stop Teaching Students What to Think. Teach Them How to Think.” Wow, I thought – I agree with that, 100%.

Then I started reading the article and found it took a few interesting turns. The first pause I had was where it said, “Memorization of facts is pointless in a world where everyone carries around the entire knowledge base of the human species on their person.” True, on the one hand – but after working in the new product development industry for years, I have seen so many instances where innovation has come from taking one set of facts and applying them to a new set of circumstances. In these cases, if the innovator had not known the facts, I doubt the new product would have been conceived, much less developed.

Do we still need to know exactly what date battles took place, or when certain texts were written? Perhaps not … but without question, knowing basic math and science facts, the basis of the history of our world, and concepts from life and literature will always be valuable.

But that was a minor glitch in my reading … what came next really made me blink and confirm I was still reading the same article. The author argues, correctly, that there are many unpaid “jobs” today, such as open source code, editing Wikipedia, and even taking care of a family, that are valuable and necessary to ensuring our current society continues to function. Certainly, I have seen so many changes in my career world of marketing. Technology has made so many jobs easier, and that has led to the devaluing of many specific types of work. For instance, anyone can now learn to use InDesign – or even Word! – and create a brochure. It may not be a professional design, but it’s often fine for what many places need. And you can search the internet and find a designer willing to create a logo for a few hundred dollars, or even much less – a job that, with the right insight and creativity, could (I’d argue should) cost thousands (years ago, a government entity paid almost $1 million for a re-do of their “identity” …).

This change in attitude about what professionals are willing to provide to clients and the world at little to no cost leads the author to suggest that an “unconditional basic income – a cash stipend starting everyone above the poverty line each month – needs to be a key characteristic of the future of work.” He feels a Basic Income will allow technology to take care of the automated tasks, freeing humans to focus on valuable work that only they can do.

As I said, definitely not a turn I expected in this article, but thought-provoking for sure.

So what do you think? What facts are important to teach our students? How do you feel about the free/low cost provision of more and more in our society today? And are you in favor of or against Basic Income? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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One thought on “Learning facts, changing work, and Basic Income

  1. I’m not surprised that this article appeared in Education Week. It’s the instruction manual for left wing thinking in our public schools. Imagine a guaranteed income for everyone for doing absolutely nothing. Sort of the Bernie Sanders way of creating Utopia. So where will the money come from? You guessed it. From those who actually do all the work. The rewards for their contribution are confiscated and given to those who just sit around and complain that they deserve more. Then when the money dries up, want to know the results? Go to Venezuela. Go to Cuba. You’ll find out. The bottom line is this: as requirements are lowered so are results. When you reward non performance you get nothing in return except demands for more rewards and less performance.
    Of course teachers should teach pupils how to think and not what to think. That’s not very profound. A teacher’s job is to instruct with actual verifiable facts. Not to indoctrinate. Not to voice opinions and ideological demagoguery. But what they should or should not do is not always monitored as evidenced in many institutions.

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