It's time, again, for our education to move up the stack

Here are some things we don’t study in school:

  • How to catch fish.
  • How to set a snare.
  • How to start a fire without matches.

Have you ever wondered why? These things are, after all, essential skills for life, right?

Of course not. Perhaps they were at one point, but they aren’t anymore. We rely on technology and infrastructure to provide us with food and shelter, making these skills a fun diversion, but otherwise obsolete. As a consequence, our education has moved “up the stack,” teaching us higher-level skills more applicable to the needs of modern world.

But now, the last 20 years have brought another shift… one that our education system hasn’t caught up to yet.

As information has poured online, we ended up with the ability to look up nearly any piece of factual information in seconds. It’s a universal reference source. We should treat the internet the same way we treat our highways, power grid, and supermarket supply chains: as a reliable commodity that isn’t going away anytime soon (because, really, it isn’t).

I spent a lot of time in school memorizing things for exams that I forgot 3 days later, and it doesn’t even matter because now I retrieve those same answers with a quick Google search. In this environment, I think anybody asking their students to memorize something really needs to take pause.

We’re spending an extraordinary amount of effort trying to get students to do things that machines are good at, instead of teaching them to do things the machines can’t do, like trim scope on an aggressive deadline, manage stakeholder expectations, identify a need in the market, persuade somebody to buy something, or create something so beautiful that it makes somebody cry. Those are the kinds of things I need to do every day, and they are (unfortunately) the kind of things I didn’t really start learning until after I graduated.