Hot Potato: Food for Thought
Why Johnny Can't...
Three Eras of Education
1997 August 27
Education was once the province of a very small number of students and teachers. A thousand years ago, even royalty was illiterate and called upon educated assistants for reading and writing. Until about 1850, only a relatively few people were literate, much less educated in any real sense.

Then came the industrial revolution and the need for people who could read, write, and cipher. People moved off the land and into cities, where new industrial jobs awaited them. In this second era, certain values were desired in employees - on-time arrival, obedience, patience with repetitive tasks, etc. A certain degree of civic knowledge was desired in response to ever-widening suffrage.

In the years since WW II, the US and other developed nations have moved towards knowledge-based economies. Knowledge has exploded, doubling every 20 years. The schools have been called upon to fulfill new roles as well as to pass on our vast store of knowledge. What business needs is people with a good set of basic skills plus the ability to think independently. That's a pretty tall order.

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