Technology is a wonderful thing. There, I said it and I wanted to be on the record about this. But here’s the thing…..we are letting technology overtake our lives, and not necessarily for the better. According to an article in Industrial Distribution magazine, a 2015 study by the Princeton, NJ based Educational Testing Services (ETS), Millennials in the U.S. fall short when it comes to the skills employers want most: Literacy (including the ability to follow simple instructions), practical math, and shockingly, a category called “problem solving in technology rich environments”. Fortune reported this study and noted that not only do Millennials lag behind their overseas counterparts by every measure, they also score below other age groups of Americans.
Why learn anything when you can Google the answer? We are seeing a “dumbing down” of American culture and its students. We are losing two fundamentals to what makes a society great: the ability to positively interact with others and critical thinking skills. Technology is to blame for both along with others such as bad parenting, schools, and more. The technology Genie is out of the bottle….we can’t put it back. Technological advancements are not going away, nor do we want them to. The breakthroughs in medicine, science, etc. far outweigh this issue.
But we do need to take this information seriously. We have all witnessed the person that cannot correctly make change for a $1.00 at a fast food restaurant. We have all experienced the impersonal nature of calling an 800 number for “service”, only to be met by someone reading from a script, who cannot think outside of the scripted answers that they have been told to read off of their computer, and all this after you have gone through seven prompts to reach them. Yeah…service….right. Society has been lowering expectations for the last several years and we shouldn’t be surprised at what we have wrought.
How will Millennials (or others) survive in this world unless they learn to think for themselves and not depend upon Google for everything? What are we doing as parents to make sure that our kids learn critical thinking skills? Have you ever survived a tornado or hurricane without power? There is no electricity….how do you do the simplest of things? How would we all survive if an enemy of the U.S. took out our power grids?
We need to be teaching our kids how to think through problems and situations without immediately resorting to Google or any one of thousands of apps. We owe them this, even if they don’t like it. We need to make sure that our kids learn manners and social graces, so that they can function in a society with their fellow human beings. It has been said that one of the most valued skills in the coming years will be interpersonal skills, because so few people will have them. Those that know how to carry on a conversation or look someone in the eye as they shake their hand will be highly coveted. What a shame…..these were table stakes when I was growing up. You were expected to know all of the things that I have listed here. We are not teaching cursive writing in certain school districts around the country. Millennials have been turned down for loans and buying houses because they cannot sign their name. Printing doesn’t count. Can we stop the madness?
We have let technology dictate so many aspects of our lives, some of it for the better. But to let it supplant fundamental skills that we all need to survive is a mistake. Yes, there are many folks, apps, and systems to blame. That’s not the point. The point is that, yet again, in a crucial measurement of our young people’s skills vs. the rest of the world, we fall short. So now educators will come up with the next program du jour, that will, once again, produce dismal results.
Maybe we should quit trying to outsmart ourselves and go back to teaching the way we did when America led the world in every category. It wasn’t a sexy app, but it was effective for millions of Americans.