Special Guest Contributor Andrew H. Potter
Following nearly a decade of graduate work in linguistics, moral philosophy, and classical/ancient history, I find myself often contemplating the bigger questions in life. For example, “Is the dark side stronger?”; “Can you escape your destiny?”; “Are all nerf-herders ‘scruffylookin’?” (Okay, the last one is a joke, but I have yet to draft or find an Aristotelian syllogism that gives me a valid answer…)
The concept of “destiny” or “predestination” is central to the plot of Star Wars. In many ways, the Skywalker family is doomed to their fate. Anakin must become Darth Vader; Luke must become a Jedi. Just as Yoda cannot prevent death—even with the Force, so Luke could not become a farmer (“there is too much of his father in him” as you may recall).
My point is this–recently in our galaxy, we have at times used perceived passions and abilities in a fixed-minded approach as proof points of destiny. When my three-year-old nephew established himself as the greatest negotiator in Michigan, some said he was destined to be a great lawyer. My friend’s daughter will become a doctor because her father is a doctor, etc.
This approach might have worked well in the industrial economy of a long time ago. However, as educators, we need to now use a growth mindset in helping our students discover and sharpen their passions so that they can be prepared for an ever-evolving galaxy of career potentials.
This new perspective of preparing students for work and life rather than a “Career of Destiny” is illuminated by the recent findings of the McKinsey Global Institute’s report, Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: Workforce Transition in a Time of Automation. The Jobs Lost report provides several critical insights:
- Nearly 50% of current work activities can be automated with existing technology
- By 2030, ~375 million workers may need to change their occupation category
Most importantly, Jobs Lost argues that net jobs will most likely increase as the acceleration of technology fuels the growth of economies around the globe. In order to prepare students for this world that is not yet defined, teachers should focus on:
- Ensuring our students develop strong social, emotional, and high-level cognitive skills and capabilities as these are difficult to automate and can transfer between occupation categories.
- Preparing our students to become innovators and problem solvers by fanning the flames of curiosity and permitting them to fail while they iterate on new solutions to old problems.
At Envision, we “send” our Explore STEM student’s to Mars, a modern galaxy far, far away. Through this adventure, they discover their passions and begin to connect this to a sense of purpose that will hopefully inform the choice of their destiny. Most importantly, this adventure is defined by problem and project-based learning experiences that require our students to exercise critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity skills.
Regardless of their future choice of destiny, they should be well prepared to thrive regardless of their role in the galaxy to come—even if they are scruffylookin’…
For more classroom resources to support early career conversations, download these tools:
Andrew H. Potter is the Chief Academic Officer at Envision, one of the nation’s leading college and career readiness organizations. In this role, he directs the organization’s academic strategy and oversees the development of faculty, curriculum, methods, and pedagogy that annually enable 25,000 students to find their passion, try out a career, and build a pathway to get there. Learn more at Envision Experience .