“Most Likely to Succeed”: A Must-See Documentary

Our American K-12 education system was designed in 1893—and it still operates essentially the same today. Check out the documentary Most Likely to Succeed for the eye-opening consequences this creates for students of the 21st century. Education Week calls this film “among the best edu-documentaries ever made.”

Today’s school system is about content provided by lectures and textbooks, with standardized tests measuring success. Students check out early. We lose them. Worse yet, the education being provided doesn’t suit them for the modern workplace.

Why? Information retrieval is no longer relevant. Computers do that better than humans. Remember when the world’s chess champion was defeated in a chess match by a computer? Remember when “Watson” handily defeated Ken Jennings, the world’s best “Jeopardy!” contestant? Computers now write routine news stories. They do routine legal work. Yet, these routine tasks are what today’s students are still being trained to do in our schools.

This is getting serious: 65% of today’s grade school children will end up at jobs that haven’t been invented yet. By 2020, 40-50% of all income-producing work will be short-term contracts, freelance work, and so-called Super Temps. Information retrieval isn’t the answer here. Nimbleness, problem-solving, teamwork, and collaboration are better answers.

For me, the most jarring realization was this. For decades, as our nation’s productivity increased, so did jobs. But now, as productivity increases, jobs decrease. Robots are more efficient at routine, information-retrieval tasks. Within a decade, fast food places will likely only need one employee—to troubleshoot the mechanical aspects of production and fast food service to customers. Ye gods.

“That’s why so many 20 and 30 somethings are living at home with their parents,” said documentary producer Ted Dintersmith, following a recent screening in Minneapolis. “53% of recent college grads are underemployed or unemployed.”

He notes the findings of a recent Gallup poll: college grads who have opportunities to apply classroom learning to internships, jobs, or ambitious projects are twice as likely to be engaged in work later in life. How do we apply this to our K-12 education system? Check out Thursday’s blogpost.