What Happens When We Take On The Education Problem

There’s an old proverb that says, ‘If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem’. When it comes to education which side of the line are you actually on?  It seems like every generational leadership story has been focused on how to understand and reach Millennials, but a new generation is […]

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Empty Classroom

There’s an old proverb that says, ‘If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem’. When it comes to education which side of the line are you actually on? 

It seems like every generational leadership story has been focused on how to understand and reach Millennials, but a new generation is here. 

That new generation is most often referred to as “Generation Z”. 

We all have to keep in mind that this younger generation is paying attention to the previous generations (and hopefully learning from both our mistakes and successes). 

The world today looks very different than it ever has. Political forces are at each other’s throats. Science and religion are in an ongoing battle about which one is a conspiracy, there’s a climate crisis, on top of that tribalism is on the rise and all that’s just for openers.  

The question is: Are we doing all we can to prepare them for taking on the world’s issues? Are we providing them with a solid education which will serve them as they enter not only the workforce but their communities and the world at large? How can the next generation go out into the world without the burden of student debt choking out innovation? But are we really looking to solve the real problems or do we continue to deal with the symptoms of a much larger issue?

There’s a lot to unpack there, and that’s what I committed to do when I sat down with Kevin Stoller to discuss the challenges facing young students. We covered everything from choosing college majors to classroom management.

Kevin Stoller is the Co-Founder & CEO of Kay-Twelve, a leading national distributor of educational furniture. Working with hundreds of schools around the US, Kevin is passionate about helping educators think outside the box to focus on individual student needs. Kevin earned a Master’s in Business Administration from Ohio State University. Kevin Stoller is also the host of Better Learning, a podcast focused on improving education at all levels. He’s also the co-author of Creating Better Learning Environments: More on Kevin Stoller:

The Classroom Set-Up

Kevin and I spoke about how it’s up to us, the adults, to address the issues facing the education system. It requires support from all of us, not the school administrators, board members, or even the governmental departments of education.

Here’s what you likely never even thought about: Schools haven’t changed much in the last 50 to 100 years. Think about it, children sit in even rows of desks facing the teacher who lectures at the front of the room. This holds true from kindergarten all the way to university-level courses. This is very similar to the open floor of an office… Talk about conditioning!

However, around eight years ago there was a shift in classroom furniture and layout which allowed students to have more control over their surroundings. This is when Kevin realized that he wasn’t just selling classroom furniture, but changing the status quo learning outcomes.

But, is that where we start? Do we begin to change the educational system by breaking down classroom structures? 

According to Kevin, “yes”. Adjusting the layout and furniture of classrooms is about more than just rearranging some chairs. All students learn differently, and how students learn changes frequently. He points out that we need to be able to cater to students to ensure their grasping the concepts being taught. Most students won’t be able to master the curriculum through lecture-based teaching. No one is average. If we’re catering to the needs of the ‘average student’, then we’re not teaching anyone. 

The Business Challenge

Now, there are many ways we can address the growing challenges of the school system and furniture is only one. But, how does this relate to the business world?

Studies have shown that only 20% of people work in the field of their university major and 85% of kindergarteners will work in jobs that don’t currently exist. Why are we setting future generations up for failure? Why are we wasting resources that could be spent preparing them for the current job market?

We should be focusing on truly marketable skills, the ones we often disparagingly call “soft skills”. Leaders have to be able to communicate, problem-solve, and show human empathy. Instead, we’re focusing on whether job applicants meet the minimum requirement of a 4-year degree or equivalent experience.  

The educational system we’ve created is a pay-to-play system that doesn’t benefit anyone. Do you really care what college someone went to or how high their GPA was? We all want applicants that can do the job well, but are we willing to pass them by just because they didn’t pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for formal education?

Changing The Mindset

What can we do to change this detrimental mindset?

Kevin believes we need to start by shifting the discussion around hiring. We, as corporate leaders, need to focus on merit, quality of work, and the value an applicant offers. This will have a trickle-down effect that will change the educational hierarchy surrounding jobs.

That sounds great, right? A simple solution to a big problem. But, how do we put this change into practice? If we remove educational requirements, what do we put on our job descriptions?

Some of the things Kevin encourages is that we look for previous work examples, mastery of key skills, and important characteristics. He recommends asking for references and portfolios. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to this problem. We can all confront this in different ways, but we all need to do our part.

Consider how you can add to the conversation. How can employers change the conversation around educational requirements? What can we, as parents and educators, do to focus on building soft skills in future generations? Consider both sides, how are you part of the problem and how can you be part of the solution?

Dov Baron is first and foremost “The Dragonist”. As The Dragonist, he teaches us how to recognize, find, retain and nurture dragons (top talent) hidden within our organizations. Want to learn more about what Dov has to offer, and how you too can become a Dragonist in your realm? If you and your leadership team are dedicated to getting the result you set out to achieve in the most meaningful manner, bring Dov in to speak to your organization about the strategic advantages of Dragon Leadership. Go here to get started. Copyright: Dov Baron International 2020

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