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Toffler On Changing Educational Structures

November 3, 2012

Excerpted from Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler:

This dispersal in geographical and social space must be accompanied by dispersal in time. The rapid obsolescence of knowledge and the extension of life span make it clear that the skills learned in youth are unlikely to remain relevant by the time old age arrives. Super-industrial education must therefore make provision for life-long education on a plug-in/plug-out basis.

If learning is to be stretched over a lifetime, there is reduced justification for forcing kids to attend school full time. For many young people, part-time schooling and part-time work at low-skill, paid and unpaid community service tasks will prove more satisfying and educational.

Such innovations imply enormous changes in instructional techniques as well. Today lectures still dominate the classroom. This method symbolize the old top-down, hierarchical structure of industry. While still useful for limited purposes, lectures must inevitably give way to a whole battery of teaching techniques, ranging from role playing and gaming to computer-mediated seminars and the immersion of students in what we might call “contrived experiences”. Experiential programming methods, drawn from recreation, entertainment, and industry, developed by the psych-corps of tomorrow, will supplant the familiar, frequently brain-draining lecture. Learning will be maximized through the use of controlled nutrition or drugs to raise IQ, to accelerate reading, or to enhance awareness. Such changes and the technologies underlying them will facilitate basic change in the organizational pattern.

The present administrative structures of education, based on industrial bureaucracy, will simply not be able to cope with the complexities and rate of change inherent in the system just described. They will be forced to move toward ad-hocratic forms of organization merely to retain some semblance of control. More important, however, are the organizational implications for the classroom itself.

Industrial Man was machine-tooled by the schools to occupy a comparatively permanent slot in the social and economic order. Super-industrial education must prepare people to function in temporary organizations-the Ad-hocracies of tomorrow.

Today children who enter school quickly find themselves part of a standard and basically unvarying organizational structure: a teacher-led class. One adult and a certain number of subordinate young people, usually seated in fixed rows facing front, is the standardized basic unit of the industrial-era school. As they move, grade by grade, to the higher levels, they remain in this same fixed organizational frame. They gain no experience with other forms of organization, or with the problems of shifting from one organizational form to another. They get no training for role versatility.

Nothing is more clearly anti-adaptive. Schools of the future, if they wish to facilitate adaptation later in life, will have to experiment with far more varied arrangements. Classes with several teachers and a single student; classes with several teachers and a group of students; students organized into temporary task forces and project teams; students shifting from group work to individual or independent work and back – all these and their permutations will need to be employed to give the student some advance taste of the experience he will face later on when he begins to move through the impermanent organizational geography of super-industrialism.

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From → Books, Education, Excerpts

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