The Past, Present and Future

In his opinion piece on Tuesday, David Brooks from the New York times wrote about the often unnoticed skills – social courage, amorphous thinking, opposability – that he feels will lead to success in the digital age. Interestingly, Brooks begins the piece by referencing a recent article by Ian Leslie in The Guardian that discusses how the application of subtle, learnable skills in the classroom determine to a large degree teacher effectiveness.  While Leslie’s article on teaching highlights skills used by good teachers for centuries and Brooks’s looks more towards the future, both emphasize that personal success is often a result of traits, skills, habits and mindsets that are difficult to measure, widely overlooked and much more complex than one’s IQ, score on the SAT or GPA.

While thinking about the ideas of Leslie and Brooks and how it applies to our work at EAB, I received an email with a link that shows the latest iteration of 3D printing.  Though I hope to be forward thinking and willing to embrace the technologies of today and the future, I must admit that I was a bit intimidated by the printer and what it can do.  It’s pure science fiction and something unimaginable even five years ago.  To create a machine that can use light and oxygen to bring highly-detailed form to molten plastic in a few minutes is an astounding achievement that may have profound implications – both good and bad – for our future.

This reality hit me again the other night while watching a show about the law and lawyers called The Good Wife with my wife. The episode focused on the complexities of regulating information passed through the Internet, specifically the schematics for a gun created by a designer in one part of the world and exported for use by anyone who had a 3D printer.  Though plastic, the gun fires real bullets and is lethal. How does law enforcement deal with this new threat?  In the U.S., should the discussion about regulation of 3D printed guns revolve around the First Amendment, which protects the right of individuals to share ideas and information without interference from the government, or the Second Amendment, which protects the right to bear arms?  It is a terribly complex problem that did not exist five years ago.

Though it is hard to understand the meaning of a revolution when in the middle of it, there is little doubt that we are living through a disruptive time in the history of humankind.  The rapid pace of technological development forces us to balance the needs of a new reality with the fundamental human characteristics that define us a species.  There must be an understanding and acceptance of a current reality, while at the same time a respect for the lessons and values of the past.  It is truly a fascinating time to be alive and even more so, I believe, for educators who have to discover how to strike the balance between yesterday, today and tomorrow.

In the last truly disruptive revolution, there were those who rejected the new reality and fought to preserve a cherished past. Today, the name of those protesters has become synonymous with the rejection of technological change and we shake our heads at the Luddites and wonder why they didn’t see and accept the reality that hindsight makes so clear was inevitable.  At EAB we understand clearly that the world is changing and that to thrive in that world our students need to develop many skills, habits and mindsets that were less important or not important a few decades ago.  We also realize that EAB students need to be confident enough to be able to adapt to the unforeseen developments of the future.  At the same time, however, we understand we must continue to place a premium on the values – community, family, mutual respect, trust, kindness, empathy – that have guided humankind for millennia and have formed the foundation of what makes EAB a special place to teach, learn and grow.

While we certainly don’t have all the answers, every day on our campus we talk about both how to prepare for the future and how to model the Core Values of our institution.  We are a forward thinking school, but we have our roots firmly grounded in the values that have always made EAB special.  It is a fascinating time to be an educator and a great time to be at EAB.

 

Have a good week.

David

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