The world has changed.
The people coming of age to vote now have grown up with Barack Obama in the White House for most of their lives. They do not remember a time when there was not a war-on-terror or a time before the internet or mobile phones existed.
They are more diverse and more accepting.
They regard ‘our’ world as history while they are digital natives. ‘Their’ world is a world full of technology, of information at their fingertips, of Google and Wikipedia, of talking to their phones and Siri and Google and Alexa. Telling their phone to “call mum” or “find nearest restaurants”.
They don’t watch TV, they watch YouTube; they don’t phone friends, they Instagram or Snapchat. They regard Facebook or Twitter as something for the older generation.
It’s hard to prepare them for entry into our world for they are living in theirs and their world is starting to explode into ours.
What we can do is pass on the lessons learned from history, to impart the wisdom we have learned as we prepare to let them go and shape the world with the new powers they will hold – the power to genetically manipulate, to live with artificial intelligence and to interact with technology in new and different ways.
The future can be profoundly better than the present if we get it right and prepare our children appropriately.
How do we prepare them adequately? Is it more of the same? Sitting in the classroom for hours each day in front of the ‘sage on the stage’ or do we need to prepare our children to be more flexible, more nimble, more individualistic?
We should acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our teaching staff who are passionate and driven about imparting learning but have to work within the system we have currently.
The school environment is no longer working well for all children, if it ever did. We are in the middle of a mental health epidemic for the younger generation and it is past time to acknowledge that sitting in class for hours every day is no longer right for everyone. A different approach should be taken for those who want and need it. This could include a reduction in focus on grades and a commitment to more individual preparation for each child’s future – more apprenticeships, technical and vocational courses and work experience rather than focusing on achieving certain grades in subjects they will never use again. It could involve more working from home for some, with greater access to online courses and material. It is important to get the best educational outcomes for individual children.
The discussion on how many schools in Guernsey is valid but we must not let it distract us from grasping the revolution in teaching and learning which is currently happening. We need to embrace new technologies, new teaching practices and apply them to our diverse range of children. That is the bigger prize; a way to nurture and guide a new generation to become mature, well-rounded, well-educated adults ready to take on the challenges of a world very different from the one in which we grew up.