I support the idea that schools should do more to prepare students for non-academic aspects of adulthood. With school taking just a fraction of our lifetime, but yet being so formative and influential, we cannot avoid the fact that academic knowledge and success do not automatically transfer into workplace success and individual happiness.
More and more people today experience situations where expert knowledge alone does not guarantee success at work. Modern workplaces are all about communication and teamwork, and not being able to effectively communicate one’s knowledge can impede his/her potential to be a competitive employee. Other qualities that school should take on teaching is self-organization, that will ultimately help people be most efficient at their workplaces and lives, and tools for successful communication, that will ensure that information is transmitted clearly, respectfully, and through the most adequate channels.
Secondly, I believe that another aspect that is important to teach alongside academic subject is how to unlearn. In today’s fast-moving world, being mentally and emotionally attached to the information and concepts learned can prove dangerous. One needs to know mechanisms of unlearning and doing things differently. School is just the right place and time to acquire the skill. If you read the definition of the concept of higher education in Russia you will see that it stresses the importance of learning a profession and being useful to the country’s economy. This view ultimately led to universities and schools only teaching facts, which were presented as the ultimate truth not subject to questioning or debating. That led to a whole generation of people who were not able to learn new techniques at a workplace and creatively approach tackling their life and work-related issues. The way of thinking where there is one fact that is undeniable paralyzed their ability to free themselves from old knowledge and be open to new views and ideas.
School is just another “social situation” where people find themselves, but for many it happens at a particular, very formative point of their lives. It is important to remember what power and influence some professors and peers exude over students. I still remember how my generation was taught to believe that teachers “know better”, “read more”, and “have seen it all”. That being another subject for discussion yet, I do believe that many of us found mentors while we were at school. It means that the school is far-reaching, it influences what we are when we enter adulthood and that’s why teaching should also overstep the academic focus and include subjects that would prepare us better for the next period of our lives. With the authority and trust that some professors have over student minds, there is a great potential that the young will be more willing to learn from them, then from their parents; and there is a great chance that learning from a trusted professor is much better than learning from the Internet or TV.
When we are at school we don’t know what’s ahead of us. If school does such a wonderful job teaching us about what was, it might prove very successful at teaching us about what will be.