A Future That Never Was

I'm still waiting for this.

When I was a kid, I looked forward to the year 2000 with a real sense of anticipation of what would be. I had always been intrigued by statements such as, “In the 2000s, there will be flying cars.” So, naturally, I figured that when the calendar flipped from December 31, 1999 to January 1, 2000, cars would be zipping around above us and we would all be wearing astronaut helmets. That seemed like what the year 2000 would look like.

Clearly, I was wrong. The year 2000 is almost 11 years behind us. Cars aren’t flying and we still have breathable air. So where’s the future that my childhood daydreams promised? Where’s the future that never was?

According to Tina Barseghian over at MindShift in an article I read yesterday, the future of education will be upon us in a mere ten years. She lists 21 educational standards that will be obsolete by the time 2020 rolls around.

Color me skeptical.

Barseghian argues that desks, language labs, computers, homework, books, and paper will all go the way of the phonograph, 8-track, and Betamax. Perhaps the only place we will be able to see these things in 2020 will be in the Smithsonian.

Sorry, though, I think this kind of hypothesizing requires a spoonful of reality to wash it down.

The year 2020 is only nine years off. In many schools, rows of desks are the norm. Will all schools transition to clusters of desks, realize that that doesn’t work either, and then decide to go deskless in such a short span of time?

Computers, Barseghian says, will give way to mobile devices (a logical extension, I guess, is that the Bring Your Own Device movement will be the norm). Where is the money for all of this coming from? Yes, ubiquity in technology leads to cheaper prices, but someone still has to pay for it all.

So who is paying for the technology that needs to be in students’ homes to enable  “ongoing parent-teacher relations in virtual reality”? Approximately 40% of my students have a computer at home and even  fewer have consistently working internet. Numbers like that should embarrass us. How will this change in less than ten years for the poorest families?  Can we start by providing families a device that can access e-mails?

The ideas in Barseghian’s article are pretty much all peachy keen. Unfortunately, though, money makes the world go ’round.

Is that going to change by 2020? Magic 8 Ball says, “Don’t count on it.” And if it doesn’t, how can schools keep up? How can families without money become players if they don’t have the money to buy into the game?

Just like cars didn’t start flying on January 1, 2000, it’s hard to imagine that a majority of schools will look like Barseghian’s vision come January 1, 2020.

The future sounds pretty great, but absent funding or access, it will just be another future that never was.

For more about the future…


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