Separate Learning from School

If we start from the premise that the modern economy demands lifelong learning, what might that mean for the future of school?

The old model is premised on the idea that people can learn what they need to know in a more or less solid block from the age of five up to the age of 16, or 18, or 22, or 30.

But let’s say you complete college or grad school now, aged 22 or 28. You’ll probably work for 50 years — through five recessions, the advent of self-driving cars, AI we can’t even imagine yet, and who knows what else.

I bought my first smartphone during my senior spring: late to the party, yet still not even 10 years ago.

Henry Kissinger once said that a person in a policymaking role doesn’t learn anything new on the job; he’s only spending down the knowledge he brought into it.

Kissinger was able to take boxes of books to the beach in Mexico between jobs, and of course that was a luxury. These days, that kind of in-and-out, action-reflection cycle is no longer a luxury but a necessity.

All of which begs the question: how might we redesign school so that it was often, actionable, and affordable, rather than occasional, theoretical, and astronomically expensive?