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Fox News attacks anticipatory thinking; Can a werewolf Congress bring us back to reality?

Fox News recently delved into the realm of the bizarre and ultra-hysterical with their new program, Glenn Beck’s “War Room.” The program does a disservice to the futures field by focusing on wildly improbable scenarios that seem intended to drive viewers into a state of fear and paranoia (especially in regard to the current presidential administration, which is working hard to correct for eight years of socioeconomic malfeasance by the previous occupant). The future is not something that we should be afraid of perpetually or have to fight against. From the February 20 program:

Let’s look at our first scenario. It’s the financial meltdown. The year is 2014.

All the U.S. banks have been nationalized. Unemployment is about between 12 percent and 20 percent. Dow is trading at 2,800. The real estate market has collapsed. Government and unions control most of the business, and America’s credit rating has been downgraded.

[…]

GERALD CELENTE, FOUNDER, TRENDS RESEARCH INSTITUTE: We’re writing the history of the future.

BECK: OK. What is life like — under that scenario — what is life like in 2014 for America?

CELENTE: New York City looks like Mexico City. If you have money or they think you’re going to have money, you’re going to be a target for a kidnapping. We’re going to see major cities look like Calcutta. There is going to be the homeless, panhandlers, hookers.

Stephen Colbert calls Beck on the b.s., and wonders how the U.S. Army would fight a werewolf Congress:

More at Indecision Forever

Five predictions for 2009 …and more!

future1

Continuing a tradition that started last year, I am listing my predictions for the big stories that will impact the education world in 2009.  My predictions from last year were hit-and-miss, but I did well overall.  How will I fare this year?

  1. No Child Left Behind won’t get left behind.  Contrary to all the data that shows that NCLB is a miserable failure, it still has too many fans within the Washington Beltway to disappear.  Besides, would the Obama administration want to send a message that they’re giving up on the noble quest of educating all children?  NCLB is here to stay, but it will evolve into something else.  Would we recognize it by 2010?
  2. The economic downturn will get much worse before it gets better, but the international impact will be greater than within the U.S.  Expect economic tragedies in China and elsewhere that depend on exports to the U.S. and other highly industrialized nations.
  3. With limits in available venture capital and new development funds within corporations, technological innovation will slow in the United States. Companies will focus on improving their core products and services at the expense of research and development.  What does this mean for education, which is in desperate need of transformative, innovative technologies?
  4. The footprint of open source software will increase, but development will slow down.  Unless if a business is committing code to the OSS community, individuals and corporations have fewer time resources available to contribute to projects.  However, OSS adoption will increase as a cost-saving measure in homes, offices and schools.  (This contrasts with last year’s prediction, where I said “education-oriented open source development will boom.”)
  5. I’m keeping my money on India, and repeating last year’s prediction: India is the place to be. As more U.S. companies quietly continue to offshore their creative work to India, India’s knowledge economy will boom. The world will take notice of this in 2008 2009.
Here are predictions for 2009 from elsewhere:

Beyond Current Horizons

Dan Sutch at Futurelab (UK) alerted me to their new project, Beyond Current Horizons:

Beyond Current Horizons looks at the future of education, beyond 2025. The aim is to help our education system prepare for and respond to the challenges it faces as society and technology rapidly evolve. What skills will children need for work? How might parenting and the family change? What impact will new technologies have on learning

Of particular interest, the Beyond Current Horizons site includes a rich collection of findings, including a review of eight socio-technical change trends for the next 50 years, an overview of the futures field, and many more papers. Dan promises many more papers will be added soon that look into the future(s) of society, technology, science and the implications for education. This promises to be a great resource!

The IT trend numbers are in!

This year’s EDUCAUSE report on IT trends (officially called the EDUCAUSE Core Data Service Fiscal Year 2007 Summary Report) is out! Some highlights from the report, which covers higher education activities and trends in FY 2007:

  • IT funding per full-time equivalent student varies greatly among institutions, with a mean funding amount at $1,551 –although the median amount is only $959.
  • The use of open source software is on the rise. 51% of institutions reported that they use some form of open source software –up from 47% in 2006 and 32% in 2005.
  • Firewalling of Internet technologies (including VoIP) is on the rise at campuses.
  • IT administrators are more likely to sit on the presidential cabinets of community colleges (37%) than all colleges as a whole (31%).

2020 skills forecast for the European Union

Europe

Cedefop, the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, supplied a comprehensive assessment of Europe’s skills requirements up to 2020 to the European Council.  In the study, they identified six employment trends leading to the year 2020 horizon:

  1. Services sector still expanding: Europe continues to shift away from manufacturing and agricultural industries
  2. Around 20 million new jobs in Europe by 2020 despite the loss of well over 3 million jobs in the primary sector and almost 0.8 million in manufacturing
  3. Workforce shortages by 2020: based on demographic developments, there will be an increase in retirees and a decrease in the working-age population
  4. High and medium-skilled occupations on the rise as will the demand for the number of lower-level jobs (such as agricultural workers and clerks)
  5. Polarization of jobs as high and low-level occupations increase: “Skill supply as an important push factor on the demand side of the labour market, however, raises concern. Are people’s skills adequately valued? Do the skills provided match those required? Are people overqualified carrying out jobs that could be done by people with lower educational attainment?” (p. 11)
  6. Increase in qualification levels: The growth of skilled occupations require an increase for qualified workers.  Fewer jobs will become available to workers with few qualifications.

From these trends, Cedefop generated a set of policy implications, most notably:

Based on these findings, overall demand for skills is likely to continue to rise. For Europe to remain competitive, policy needs to ensure that the workforce can adapt to these requirements. Europe needs a strategy to satisfy the demands of the service-oriented knowledge-intensive economy. Continuing training and lifelong learning must contribute to a process that enables people to adjust their skills constantly to on-going structural labour market change.

The young generation entering the labour market in the next decade cannot fulfil all the labour market skill needs. This has implications for education and training. Lifelong learning is paramount. It requires implementing a consistent and ambitious strategy that reduces the flow of early school leavers and drop-outs, establishes a comprehensive skills plan for adults/adult learning and which increases the supply of people trained in science and technology.

[…]

Labour market and other social policy measures need to be more flexible for those needing to change their job. Alongside flexicurity measures, Europe must make proposals to maximise the employment potential of its workforce. Bringing more women into the labour market and longer working lives are crucial and unavoidable measures for Europe’s sustainable future.

How to balance work with personal and family lives? Reconciling the work-life balance in the context of social policy agenda and corporate social responsibility is a challenge for the coming years. (pp. 14-15)

[View the report in its entirity here.]

States rely on determinist tests, genes to track kids to prison

Several U.S. states plan future prison build-outs based on second or third-grade reading scores. But now this trend of tracking young children for a career in crime is spreading to other nations? The Guardian reports that Scotland Yard’s most senior forensics expert, Gary Pugh, want elementary school kids to be “eligible for the [national] DNA database if they exhibit behaviour indicating they may become criminals in later life, according to Britain’s most senior police forensics expert.” From the article:

‘If we have a primary means of identifying people before they offend, then in the long-term the benefits of targeting younger people are extremely large,’ said Pugh. ‘You could argue the younger the better. Criminologists say some people will grow out of crime; others won’t. We have to find who are possibly going to be the biggest threat to society.’

[…]

Chris Davis, of the National Primary Headteachers’ Association, said most teachers and parents would find the suggestion an ‘anathema’ and potentially very dangerous. ‘It could be seen as a step towards a police state,’ he said. ‘It is condemning them at a very young age to something they have not yet done. They may have the potential to do something, but we all have the potential to do things. To label children at that stage and put them on a register is going too far.’

What’s next? Requiring DNA samples from second graders who underperform in a reading test so they can be easily identified by future forensic criminologists?

These trends seem like a variation of a theme derived from the dystopias of Minority Report‘s pre-crime and Gattaca‘s eugenics and genetic discrimination, with an added element of the growing omniscience of the state. Because of the threat of discrimination, any embrace of genetic determinism by the state could have tremendous negative impacts. What would it take to expand GINA to protect U.S. students in educational settings?

A New Paradigm of Knowledge Production

My doctoral dissertation, A New Paradigm of Knowledge Production in Minnesota Higher Education: A Delphi Study, is available for purchase online or for online preview:

SPECIAL:

Download now and save! For the month of September, the PDF edition is available for download at the discounted price of $30.00 $15.00 (50% off)!

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Future of Education conference

The University of Manitoba is hosting a free, virtual Future of Education Online Conference that will end June 8.  Live presentations will be archived, and discussion is encouraged via the “U of M” Learning Technologies Centre Moodle site:

http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/moodle/course/view.php?id=12

From the organizers’ description of the conference:

Tumultuous change is creating new opportunities for schools, colleges, universities, and corporations to rethink their approaches to teaching and learning. Many buzzwords are used to describe the change: globalization, web 2.0, the world is flat, the wisdom of crowds, and the long tail.

What exists beyond the hype? What is happening to education? What will be the shape of education in the future? Answering these questions is no easy task – the change drivers have not yet settled sufficiently to reveal a clear path forward. For academics, researchers, and leaders, it is important to begin exploring the trends emerging and potential implications and directions forward. The Future of Education is a free online conference exploring trends impacting education – K-12, higher education, and corporation training.

This could be great!