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College Ready vs. Out-of-Basement Ready: Shifting the Education Paradigm

2 July 2014 13,241 15 Comments

Last year when my son graduated from college, I asked the question “can you stay out of my basement?” as I believe an important outcome of education is the ability to live out of one’s parent’s basement, that is, the ability to be an independent and contributing member of a society.

The Common Core and most education reforms around the world define the outcome of schooling as readiness for college and career readiness. But as recent statistics suggest, college-readiness, even college-graduation-readiness, does not lead to out-basement-readiness. Over 50% of recent college graduates in the US are unemployed or underemployed. The numbers are not much better in other parts of the world.

They are the “boomerang kids,” writes a New York Times magazine article last week. These were good students. They were ready for college. They paid for college (many with borrowed money). They completed all college requirements. They did not drop out. And they graduated from college. But they are back in their parents’ basement for there is no career for them, ready or not.

The reason is simpler than many would like to accept: education has been preparing our students for an economy that no longer exists. Technology and globalization have transformed our society. Machines and off-shoring have led to the disappearance of traditional middle class jobs—jobs our education have been making our children ready for.

The “boomerang kids” are not poorly educated, but miseducated. They were prepared to look for jobs, but not to create jobs. They were prepared to solve problems, but not to identify problems or ask questions. They were prepared to follow instructions, but machines can follow instructions more precisely and more important, with less cost.

Technological changes always disrupt the existing social and economic order, forcing us to redefine the value of talents, knowledge, and skills. What used to be valuable may become obsolete. What was undervalued may become more valuable. We know that in the “second machine age” and “flat world,” we need creative, entrepreneurial, and globally competent workers to compete with machines and less expensive workers who do not have access to the same resources as students in developed countries. But policy makers and other “reformers” today remain dedicated to instilling in our children the outdate knowledge and skills following an outdated education paradigm. As a result, the more successful these reform efforts become, the more “boomerang kids” we will have.

What we need is to shift the education paradigm from preparing job seekers to job creators, from imposing upon children what a small group people defines as valuable knowledge and skills to supporting children to follow their own passion, and from fixing our children “deficits” defined by standardized testing to enhance their strengths. But the dominant reform efforts keep fixing the obsolete paradigm instead of inventing a new one. Worse yet, they discourage and penalize attempts to create a new paradigm.

The Common Core wants your kids to develop career readiness, but ask the question: who is equipped to create the careers they will become ready for?

So my 4th of July suggestion: Stop the Common Core or ready your basement for your college graduates. By the way, I am proud to say that my son does not live in my basement.

(Read more about why the Common Core won’t result in out-of-basement readiness and what needs to be done in my book World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students).

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15 Comments »

  • College Ready vs. Out-of-Basement Ready: Shifting the Education Paradigm | Renascence School International Education News said:

    [...] an economy that no longer exists. Technology and globalization have transformed our society.” (more)    Comments (0) Return to main news [...]

  • Mary Porter (chemtchr) said:

    Wait, what? Did you just write,

    “The “boomerang kids” are not poorly educated, but miseducated. They were prepared to look for jobs, but not to create jobs. They were prepared to solve problems, but not to identify problems or ask questions.”

    That’s exactly the tripe the corporate reformers spew. Where are these supposed jobs identifying problems and asking questions? You lie when you say my students aren’t prepared or aren’t needed. The world needs health care providers of every kind, dentists, builders, teachers,

    Our children aren’t broken or miseducated, our ECONOMY has been hijacked.

  • Educational Policy Information said:

    [...] By YongZhao Last year when my son graduated from college, I asked the question “can you stay out of my basement?” as I believe an important outcome of education is the ability to live out of one’s parent’s basement, that is, the ability to be an independent and contributing member of a society. The Common Core and most education reforms around the world define the outcome of schooling as readiness for college and career readiness. But as recent statistics suggest, college-readiness, even college-graduation-readiness, does not lead to out-basement-readiness. Over 50% of recent college … Read the full article [...]

  • Paul Dudley said:

    I totally agree, we need leaders at all levels with informed imaginations shaping the education paradigm. My question is, how much of the failure to prepare students with creativity, resilience, empathy and relationship skills is a failure of parenting? Does the educational paradigm shift need to be more collaborative with parenting, which appears to be in a state of flux and confusion, to prepare students for the future?

    Humble educator seeking to learn and serve.

  • Ann said:

    I agree in part, we need to educate students to become more entrepreneurs. The traditional middle class ions are mostly gone. The system of education has to change.

  • KEK said:

    Well stated. The paradigm shift in world society you outline is happening now. We all our living thru it now. I am not prepared to understand it nor grapple with it. I have traditional solutions for the issues you discussed. I ask that you help me and other readers to take the subject to a greater depth and pursue possibilities and solutions; paths forward. Continue to define the problem and clarify it. At the same time use your experience and education to probe the many pathways to the many, varied and undefined solutions. Part of the paradigm shift is the change from ‘ a one solution fits all’ to the thought that many pathways need to be investigated and pursued to provide a breadth of diverse solutions to fit a diverse population of needs. This requires a different way of thinking (Gregory Bateson) to be applied to a very complex issue. I believe you are on the right track, but need more amplification and depth and demonstrated possibilities to help readers understand the solutions.

  • Lorraine Richardson said:

    Schools need to create “problem seekers” and not just problem solvers. We need to eliminate the word “job” from our vocabulary and use the term “work” instead. Our schools still teach silence, obedience, stillness, and uniformity. This covert “curriculum” will get them a “job” as a keyboard pushing wage slave for the corporate masters. Schools need a new “invisible curriculum”.
    We also need a MORATORIUM ON TESTING. http://blog.owlmountaincoaching.com/blogpost/moratorium-on-testing-part-one/

    Lorraine Richardson

  • empathyeducates – The Education Paradigm – Raising Children to Return to Our Basements said:

    [...] Shutterstock By Yong Zhao | Originally Published at Zhao Learning.. July 2, [...]

  • A View From the Edge » Post Topic » The Miseducation of America’s Children said:

    [...] one of Zhao’s recent blog posts, College Ready vs. Out-of-Basement Ready: Shifting the Education Paradigm, he describes where we are going wrong: (emphasis is mine) Over 50% of recent college graduates in [...]

  • Momhere said:

    So, so true! You nailed it. Schools are squashing the creative, out-of-the box thinkers with rubrics and standardized tests and teachers requiring ONE way of doing things because they’re told that growth on this specific measure defines their “success” and job security.

    My child is (was) an avid reader, young scientist, self-motivated global learner, and recently taught himself math far ahead of grade level (thank you Khan Academy) and several computer programming languages. In school he is constantly squashed by Rubric-Oriented teachers who Teach-to-the-Test. Guess what? He had no time to read this year because he was busy doing teach-to-the-test busywork. His scores DROPPED significantly.

    No one at his school cared what motivated him and that he has huge potential as a scientist, computer scientist, or mathematician. We are changing schools. Not sure that is the complete solution – but what I do know is he was undervalued at his school and needs a breath of fresh air. he is losing interest in learning at his middle school. Teaching to the test does not motivate, and unmotivated kids do not score higher.

  • Building Capacity - Teaching with Nancy | Teaching with Nancy said:

    [...] After reflecting upon the conversations and the ideas shared by the keynote speaker, Dr. Yong Zhao, my biggest take away from today has been the sense of urgency to make sure we are teaching our kids the skills they need to “move out of our basement” or become independent adults. (Read Dr. Zhao’s blog post about College Ready vs. Out-of-Basement Ready here.) [...]

  • Theory Task.. | kazzaedu said:

    [...] read more about Zhao here [...]

  • David said:

    I am an educator with 23 years of experience in public schools as well as public charter schools- I agree with Dr. Zhao in many respects- our system has crushed creativity and forced our best and brightest to chase points and test scores. We have spent many generations getting them to play the game- chase the points and not understand the bigger picture- However, I don’t agree that we should dump the common core- but rather change our concept/paradigm about what is foundational/core to understanding and the process of learning and knowing how to learn. Yes – we do need a common foundation- but not a full common superstructure that all must build the same.
    Deciding what is to be included in this common foundation is up for debate- Some say STEM- which irritates me to no end- I would say if that is your view – expand it to include the arts- STEAM.
    Then we have to decide how deep do we go in our foundation building…It must be solid enough to allow for significance but not so massive as to dominate the whole process.
    After listening to Dr. Zhao for a couple of hours last week- I am inclined to follow his logic- at least in part. But I am still convinced that there are certain basics that must be shared in common and are foundational to any significant success beyond public k-12 school.

  • Bruce Saari said:

    Another terrific article compressed into a brief space. The “boomerang” and “basement” illustrations are perfect new ways to illustrate and re-state what some of us have been saying since the American reform movement began in the 1990′s. Thank you.

  • MsJadeBenny said:

    In my own perspective enrolling in college and aim to graduate doesn’t mean exactly preparing your self to be independent rather a productive citizen of the society one way to adjust the growing rate of unemployed individual.

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