How my life changed in 2018: Part 1
As we approach the end of 2018, I am left thinking the ways my life and outlook have changed since January 1. Some are more notable than others and I plan to reflect on them a bit.
Part 1: Next generation parents and children
2011 was the first year I remember a large number of my married friends joined the parenting club. While I had gotten used to friends getting married and their lives slowing down a bit but this shift in direction was a new world order for sure. Despite six years since then of births here and there, this year as far as my memory serves marked the second large influx. While I am more accustomed to the transition now, this second wave pushed me to reflect on the lives they now inhabit and more interestingly, the world they are raising their children in.
There are many shifts in play across the world but three come to mind as I think about the questions my friends and other parents will have to ask themselves and the new roles they may have to inhabit.
One of the most common thing influencing a parent’s behavior is education and schooling. For those who have financial opportunity, they’ll often do whatever they can to get their kids into a “good” school. But I think what a good school is can be harder to determine. “What is school for?” is a question author Seth Godin has been harping on for a while and is worth hearing his thoughts. Is it to drill facts into students heads? As the internet continues to grow up and technology becomes more woven into our lives, it is without question that facts simply crammed into a person’s head is less valuable today than a hundred years ago. Or as MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito said of the existing order,
"I've got Wikipedia on my cell phone, and it feels like they assume you're going to be on top of some mountain all by yourself with a number 2 pencil trying to figure out what to do when in fact you're always going to be connected... and what you need to learn is how to learn."
Is school to make kids good at test taking? If so why are problem solving, creativity and innovation the things people seem to talk about most today? Can you really get an ‘A’ on a scantron creativity test? No. The tough part is the way schools were set up was to drive obedience and conformity into people (see the cultural idiom “curiosity killed the cat”) and to the most productive members of our society going forward we need them to be less afraid when what tests and right answers teach are to not experiment. One of the most important things I regularly cite that kids should be taught and bring into all fields is the scientific method that we all learn. Stop working on getting the right and instead work on disproving things. Being “right” is often a temporary thing because most things change over time.
I want to be clear that what I am stating is not a simple solve nor am I the first person to take a dig at education. Overhauling how we change our kids is a big ask but if you want your kids to be successful you need to own these questions among all the other roles you already have: grocery shopping, your job, maintaining a semi-orderly home and hopefully finding a few minutes for your spouse. If you want your kid to be set up for success going forward a general rule should be ensuring their education doesn’t look all that similar to how yours was growing up.
When the time comes to plan for college and you are contemplating cutting an institution a MASSIVE check you should not just look at what college costs but are you getting what you pay for? Is your kid more prepared for the work world or one of the 4 out of 10 people who graduate and still end up doing a job that doesn’t require a college degree? You must hold those administrators to account. Our parents and grandparents had it so much easier. The educational track we had built worked and now that era of clarity around what good schooling looks like is coming to an end.
Something I can’t help but reflect on is another thing that demands increased attention. Many people including my parents once upon a time moved to the suburbs and further out not just to find a better school but a supposedly safer environment. And yet things like mass shootings are now much more likely to happen in suburban areas than urban. We can no longer move away from the problem because its more likely to happen in affluent areas. Our children will increasingly receive their public education in fortified strongholds. Instead of moving away from violence the question is will we lean into seeking more sensible legislation around firearms? Will we again give up more of our free time and become more active in their safety?
The final thing I leave to everyone is perhaps the most divisive and vexing of all, climate change. This year the UN issued a report saying that by 2050 the problems of climate change will be irreversible. As I sit here writing this, I am 36 years old. The children born this year will be 32 in the year 2050. As we think about the parents have for their children, the question is not “do you believe in climate change?”, rather it is, “Are you willing to allow politicians and business people to fuss over legislation and potentially do little/nothing and chance that scientists will be wrong?" What action and responsibility do we have to our children other than debating merits of science? How do we wish for them to remember us and what kind of world do we want to leave them?
I have left you no answers in this only questions and possible directions to take. What I believe is the way we live and move through this society must change and it is incumbent upon up to engage around these social and environmental issues.
The next generation is counting on us. It is time we act accordingly.
Go Forth Boldly