Now that I am officially a grandfather, by way of my son’s recent marriage, I find myself thinking more and more about the future my grandchildren will inherit. I know my days are numbered and there’s only so much I can do before I go on to the great hereafter but I still want to keep trying to make the world a better place for all of us. My dad always taught me to hope for the best but plan for the worst so I guess I’m a little jaded when it comes to the future and my hopes for the little ones who will spend their childhood in a vastly different environment than I grew up in. Here’s the future as I see it.
I see the negative effects of the disintegration of the family every day in foster care. Most of these kids are being raised by young adults who have no interest in being parents. They gave no thought whatsoever to the consequences of sex, pregnancy and childbirth. They brought children into the world without the means or desire to take care of them and then when it became too much to deal with, they turned them over to the state. I have seen families with eight or nine kids, all in foster care. They get to see their kids once a week for an hour and the state does the rest all the way to the age of eighteen. Which means that the rest of us are paying to raise those kids with our tax dollars. We all pay but very few of us have the courage to become foster parents. God bless them all for what they do. The only possible solution is to teach young people that all actions have consequences and responsibility is not optional. I would love to teach that in a high school, Cause & Effect 101.
My chances of getting a teaching job at a high school are less than zero because the educational system is partly to blame for the way the younger generation thinks, which is to say, only when they have to. They’re great at Google searches and using apps but applied reasoning like the Socratic Method is missing today. I see very little cognitive discipline in the next generation. They can be dramatically persuaded by anonymous words on a screen faster than any generation ever. They actually believe that Google is the definitive arbiter of truth and ignore the fact that Google exists only to make money. Truth and profits have always been strange bedfellows. We have to start teaching kids that technology is just a tool not a means to an end.
It never ceases to amaze me that technology has far outpaced our human ability to make the best use of it and this is only going to get worse in the future. Twenty years ago, in my graphic arts business, we could go for coffee while a fifty meg Photoshop file rotated on the screen but the creative things we could do were truly phenomenal. At the time, I thought the coming generations would be devoted to their computers and all the technology that was at their finger tips. Of course, that was before smartphones and social media disrupted the technology landscape. Now, I can’t fathom why anyone thinks social media is beneficial to our civilization. It should have been but once people succumbed to the temptation of anonymity it was lost forever to the dark side. Now we have an entire subculture of dishonesty, deceit, and perversion that preys on the weak-minded and innocent children. No one would dare leave their kids at home alone with all the doors unlocked and windows wide open but millions of people do worse than that with the internet and social media. Children will always need our protection from predators, whether we can see them or not.
I predict that a hundred years from now, historians will look back on the present day and wonder out loud how so many people were addicted to various drugs including social media induced dopamine highs. It’s entirely possible that Facebook will go down as the single worst invention of all time because so many people became addicted to the dopamine rush of “Likes” on Facebook and the subsequent disengagement from the real world of meaningful relationships. In my opinion, smartphones make dumb people.
My last prediction is also the most likely to come true. I predict Clayton Christensen’s theories on disruptive innovation in the business world will cross over into society as a whole and we will see seismic shifts in many institutions like healthcare, schools, religion and government. I think schools have already reached critical mass and they will be the first to fall. Online education is going to replace public schools as the first choice for families who want the best possible education for their kids. The public school system is going to be left with the kids whose parents want daycare first and education second. This disruption doesn’t bother me so much because I do think kids learn better at their own pace and online classes are perfect for that. One size fits all classroom education is going to die a slow death at the hands of the established system because too many people have a vested interest in keeping their jobs, not because it’s better for the kids. The only thing missing from online learning is social development but that will be replaced with communities of families who bond together to instill good values in their kids. Morality should be taught in the home but it must be practiced there first.
I actually can see a bright future once holistic education disrupts the school system in America. Parents should be the role models and by forming educational communities the future generations will have the well-rounded education they will need to succeed and the cooperative skills for dealing with all the other disruptions that are coming. Whatever time I have left to mentor my grandchildren, I will spend in teaching them how to adapt and overcome challenges, how to be respectful to others, how to be compassionate and helpful, how to look for new and better ways to achieve whatever they want out of life and how to survive societal prejudice or pressure. The world will always keep changing and as long as most of us actively seek to make it better, then it will be better. Let’s all make sure that every kid has an equal chance to be part of that bright future by being there for them every step of the way.
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