Monday, January 09, 2012

Getting the Most out of Youth

This week, on TED Conversations, (look it up and thank me later) the question was posed:

Roughly 52% of the world's population is under 30. What is best way to harness the energy and ideas of youth?

 To me, step one would be to make sure that energy and creativity are informed. Some background:

I certainly recall formulating incredibly strong opinions in my teens and 20's which later, based on a broader understanding, were dead wrong. I suspect I'm not the only one.

Furthermore, nothing helps me really "gel" or solidify my opinion on something like trying to explain it to someone. Kinda like posting here on Ted Conversations!

Many curricula, especially in the US, rely too heavily on reading- and lecture-based pedagogy. Similarly, our adulthood self-education relies far too heavily on reading- and talking-head-debate based TV and print media. We sit and stare quietly, deciding to agree or disagree with the point being made. Later, over dinner when we try to explain it to our kids, we are disturbed to discover all the holes in our understanding or logic.

Innovation, dynamism, and human caprice are forcing many of us to continually reinvent ourselves professionally. Yet we still instill in our youth in a concept of "profession" tied to a specific set of skills. ("What do you want to be when you grow up?). As TED speaker Sarah Kay challenged: "How many lives can you live?" In prior centuries, the answer was one, but today's youth will be REQUIRED to reinvent themselves over and over again.

Therefore, I would advocate a two-pronged approach:

1/ further a culture of continual education. Make it socially desirable to question your opinions, to seek to further your understanding. Continued lifelong education is the best way to optimize our chances of continually contributing to (or maybe even disruptively improving) our world and thus achieving our life goals.

2/ make that education participatory and practical. University is great, but it so often misses the important applied education. We thus force our young and educated to take a leap of faith into the market across a chasm of lack of experience in applying their knowledge.

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