I have always hated September. Most people love September because fall is in the air, baseball playoffs are exciting, football season begins (Go Hawks!) and Bumbershoot and other end-of-summer events entertain almost everybody.
But I hated September as a young kid because it meant the beginning of school. I found school, from kindergarten through college, to be boring: you had to take tests, the teachers had never adequately practiced what they were teaching and, most important, they never really zeroed in on what you wanted to be when you grew up. (I wanted to be Batman’s sidekick, Robin, but got zero useful training for the profession.) The history of the ideas driving education are fascinating but those ideas don’t necessarily parallel what individuals want or even what the economy and culture need. Schools are teaching from curriculums without having any knowledge or relevance for the jobs that are going to be available in the next five to 10 years.
As I grew older, I learned that September also was the month we celebrated Labor Day and discovered how wonderful it was to honor the social and economic achievements of workers over the past century. But nothing stays the same. Just as the goals and achievements of our workforce have changed over the years, so should our educational systems.
We must prepare this generation and the next to contribute to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country as well as encourage people to pursue what they want to do. We shouldn’t assume every young student wants to go to a university like many of us did and study in that manner. But we do have opportunities with our numerous workforce programs, technical and community colleges, intern and mentorship programs, entrepreneurial activities and technical assistance to change the curriculum.
As a society we need to rethink how we define education. Education is not just about scholarship but also successful adulthood and personal satisfaction from work. Economic developers need to work with our educational institutions to help make education become more relevant to the lives of individuals and to our country. Then I can start loving September.