By James Marshall Crotty, Contributor
Are You Einstein Wise?
Ever since I devoured the works of Alvin Toffleras a kid, I’ve yearned to hear what so-called “futurists” had to say about, well, the future. Of late, however, I’ve grown tired of these overhyped, overpaid prognosticators, such asFaith Popcorn, who offer more sizzle than steak, and whose signature talent seems to be in repackaging, for a white bread corporate clientele, insights that are obvious to any cutting edge entrepreneur. Heck, I could easily claim to have invented more bona fide trends than most futurists, er, “trend-spotters,” have “spotted,” including mobile publishing, the personalization of content, blogging (Monk Magazine was nothing but one long blog), and DIY everything, but I wouldn’t be so presumptuous.
The latest trend-spotter to come across my screen is Marian Salzman. Her Global integrated marketing communications agency Euro RSCG Worldwide — where Salzman is CEO of North American PR — has just issued what it calls an “in-depth look at what’s trending in education for 2012-13.” Unfortunately, the bulk of Salzman’s education “research” tends to be from secondary sources, and at least one of her education “trends” is well known to Crotty readers. For example, Salzman notes that “College grads will have an easier time landing jobs in 2012-13. However, they may need to switch majors, since most jobs will be in STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math.” The subject of STEM has been in the news for months, with a slew of articles, conferences, and policy initiatives on the subject.
Here’s a loose summary of Salzman’s Five Big Trends for Education in 2012-13 as funneled through the Crotty Brain:
1. Mumbai the New Cambridge?
While American primary and secondary education continues to lag the industrialized world, American universities consistently outrank their global peers and, thus, continue to be a magnet for the best and brightest from planet earth. 6 of the top 10, and 15 of the top 25 universities in the world are U.S.-based, including my alma mater of Northwestern (ranked 24th globally, though, to my chagrin, behind UC Berkeley). However, if you believe that, in the age of globalization, the concept of an Ivy League of educational superiority will remain a uniquely American offering, think again.
Harvard Business School, for instance, has announced anew program in India focused on entrepreneurship, strategic management, innovation and corporation accountability. Salzman says we shouldn’t be surprised to see more top American universities breaking ground on similar programs in other emerging markets, where a whole new generation of would-be corporate raiders is ripe for the picking.
Just as important, notes Salzman, is to expect other countries to develop direct competitors to the Ivy League itself. According to Inside Higher Education, French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to develop an Ivy League of France’s own. As part of the country’s Iniatives d’Excellence (Idex) scheme, it would be called the Sorbonne League (can’t wait to see the school mascots), and would include five to seven world-class universities that can vie internationally for top students and professors. Currently, France does not have even one university in the top 25 globally. And only one European university makes the cut at all, ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology). Perhaps there is a connection between Europe’s under-performing universities and its sovereign debt woes?
2. There Will Be Jobs
Even against the backdrop of a European recession, Salzman says there’s good news on the post-grad job front. She notes that, according to U.S. News & Woprld Report, “Employers surveyed by the National Assocation of Colleges and Employers (NACE) say they plan to hire 9.5 percent more graduates from the class of 2012 than they did from the class of 2011.” And according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the areas that look most promising are the so-called STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), a frequent topic here at Crotty on Education.
Speaking of engineering, Salzman says you might as well think of it as “the new plastics;” the average salary offered to engineering majors rose 2.8 percent last year to $60,291. Likewise, the average salary offered to petroleum engineering graduates jumped 7.1 percent to $82,740, making it the highest-paid major, according to the same U.S. News article (read my interview with energy consultant Tim Sutherlandto learn more about job openings in the energy sector). However, what Salzman fails to emphasize is that many of these jobs will go unfilled unless there is a dramatic increase in graduates with the necessary math and science skills to take them. For that to happen, more students have to start moving away from majors in “soft” social sciences, such as anthropology, to harder sciences.
3. Brain Train
According to Salzman, emerging research on the psychology of how we learn will likely influence how we teach. Developments in neuroscience and cognitive psychology are powering new ways of thinking about the brain and the perceptions and emotions that contribute to learning. She notes that music education classes, for example, have shown to enhance education performance by interacting with many different areas of brain function. A concept obvious to those who study while listening to Bach or Mozart, and an important one when placed against the backdrop of standardized-test-driven cuts in music classes nationwide.
4. Anti-Bullying Backlash
Also trending for 2012-13, according to Salzman, is an anti-bullying backlash. Educators in states such as New Jersey, which just passed perhaps the toughest anti-bullying legislation in the country, are already feeling overwhelmed by the number of reports they’re receiving and the amount of time it takes to investigate each bullying complaint. Also troubling to teachers, students and parents is how to police bullies outside the classroom and schoolyard. Salzman predicts that we will see lines drawn by angry parents who feel that schools invade the privacy of their children when they investigate their lives out of school. Salzman notes that if parents want to protect the privacy of their daily lives, the responsibility to monitor their children’s bullying will fall squarely on their already overburdened shoulders.
5. Outdoor Education Makes a Comeback
And in a twist on what we now think of as a digital classroom without walls, Salzman says we should look for an upstick in outdoor education programs designed to combat everything from obesity to digital burnout to Vitamin D deficiences. According to the Burlington Free Press, classes in farming and nature studies, including the study of back-to-the-woods authors such as Henry David Thoreau, will become part of expanded green learning iniatives.
However, Salzman says we will not banish the iPad just yet. In September 2011, the U.S. Department of Education provided startup funding for a new project calledDigital Promise. The bipartisan, public-private initiative will bring technology breakthroughs into the classroom to help students with problem subjects such as math.
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