During the fifteen years since we first started working on this book, we have often heard people voice the opinion that American schools are falling behind— that industrial-age schools are hopelessly failing
The pace of knowledge
In the United States and many industrialized countries, the jobs available to people without much education continue to diminish, both in quality and relative quantity. There are still plenty of factory jobs available, but only for people who have basic computer literacy, a twelfth grade reading level (for complex, ever-changing machine instructions), a grasp of statistics (for quality control), a basic background in physics, a little programming knowledge, and possibly proficiency in a foreign language (to telecommunicate with their counterparts in, say, Brazil or China).
The emergence of successful enterprise and self-determination around the world is usually called “globalization,” and it is enabled by universal factors such as communications links, social media, and trade, but its greatest effect has been local. People in nearly every local community, everywhere, feel their fate connected to others in a way they never have before. This has affected every nation’s view of its schools.
Economic stress and social uncertainty
The “have and have-not” economy, in which there is a widening gap between the quality of life and opportunity available to the rich and poor, has enormous effects on educational institutions. So does the diverse and unpredictable social and domestic landscape of many cultures today.
Directly raises pressure on schools today. Some experts blithely (and shortsightedly) predict that public schooling itself will die soon, “done in” by its inability to keep up with the pace of this change. That won’t happen, but schools are being transformed. Already, many students from second grade onward are used to carrying their own smartphones and tablets and logging onto websites.