In Linchpin, Seth Godin argues that in today’s economy, there has never been higher demand for artists; people that are creative and make goods that are one of a kind. Godin talks about increased demand for customized items and the need for producers to develop goods and services that are tailored to individuals. Corporate America is calling for indispensable workers (Godin’s term) who will reimagine industry.
Some may read what Godin has written and ponder the iPhone, or another of Apple’s tech gadgets that have become so ubiquitous. This example is exactly what Linchpin is all about. While many people own a common item, such as an iPhone, no two iPhones are the same. Each person who purchases the gadget selects different applications, decorates it with a different cover or case, and selects a unique ringtone. While the item might be the same, the individual makes choices and molds their iPhone into whatever they want it to be. In many ways, technology tools from Apple, while common in our society, are very existentialist. Assuming Godin is correct and that the economy of today and tomorrow is focused on the individual, what does that mean for education?
The call for existentialism in society is contrasted by the conformity of behaviorism alive in today’s schools. As organizations, we reward those who “do school” well. By rewarding compliance and offering correct factual answers, students who fit into traditional boxes are successful and praised. In ten week increments, schools give report card grades for students that assign value to a child’s ability to turn in assignments that are given, often restating factual information that was presented in class. By emphasizing factual information through questions that can be answered using a simple Google search, students do not get the opportunity to think about or try to solve a complex problem or challenge. Educators have explained and modeled what they deem to be appropriate behavior, and through honor roll recognitions, perfect attendance awards, and simple positive reinforcement in classrooms praise what they want to see. However, will the behaviorism of schools produce adults who can contribute to the economy, or create a generation that is too dependent upon “the right answer” from a supervisor?
In a manufacturing economy, bells to announce when to move from one class to another or school policy that demanded conformity was virtuous. Schools mass produced students who, as adults, mass produced items in an economy. Technology has changed all of that. Individualism is the new mass production. Are schools preparing students to meet this challenge?