THE POST WORK WORLD: Preparing for our kids

Eric Nentrup, Don Wettrick, Ginger Lewman and I submitted a SxSWEdu panel proposal to address the fact that the job market IS changing and education will need to as well.

In the 19th century, philosophers of education theorized the role of education for a democratic society. This role had three parts: creating citizens, creating workers, and to generally foster the development of moral agents capable of attaining a good life. Of course, as society developed, as markets grew, and as economic competition increased, we saw education for work become the primary rationale for schooling.

Today, securing employment for a sustainable livelihood heavily guides how families and youth make their education and life decisions. We see governments reinforcing this rationale by seeking economic development through education policy and curricula. For example, as companies needs more programmers, we see an influx of STEM promotion in schools. 

This need for national and personal economic growth has brought us to the brink of significant development and innovation. Artificial intelligence is poised to replace a large number of jobs that can be easily automated. Not just secretarial jobs – telemarketers, bookkeepers, receptionists, proofreaders, and computer support specialists are reported to be among the first jobs to go. Robots also stand to replace retail sales people, loan officers, paralegal assistants, drivers, security guards, cooks, bartenders, and financial advisers, to name a few (PwS report).

With this kind of change looming, leaders are thinking seriously about how mitigate the impact of job loss on families. Some are considering implementing a universal basic income to do this. UBI has made it onto the policy agenda of a number of countries including the US, Canada, India, the Netherlands, Italy, Scotland, among others. These programs are not all identical but rather test various schemes for distributing public funds to those who would need it.

While politicians are busy determining the optimal configuration for a basic income, WE in education need to prepare for the impact this may have on our kids, on their growth and development. If young people are guaranteed a basic income what new (or age-old) factors will shape how young people decide what to do with their lives? Will the education for work paradigm persist? Or will we see a shift in the common wisdom of the people? Will emotional factors be weighed more heavily? Will people become less risk-averse? Will this result in more diverse and creative innovations? These are among the questions our diverse panel of experts wants to explore on the SxSW stage.

Secondly, if UBI is not a part of the solution, then we still need to consider the following questions about how education might respond to automation and job loss.

What does the job market of the future look like and what will it need of the young people entering it? What kinds of jobs should we create? What does the curriculum of the future look like? And if schooling isn’t all about job training what should it focus on in terms of human development and citizenship. 

We want to get people in education riled up and thinking about this.

Help us by voting for our panel here:


Roxanne Desforges