The following is a response to a letter in the July 11 issue of the News by Arnav Sood regarding the renewal of West Windsor-Plainsboro superintendent David Aderhold’s contract.
It is unfortunate that many parents like Mr. Sood and others in the community do not understand nor see the value of David Alderhold’s whole child approach to education.
The reality is that many of the parents who oppose this approach are putting their children at a disadvantage when the future of the employment market will value creativity over raw skills in math or the sciences. I don’t mean creativity purely in the sense of arts, but more generally in how students think about their world—be that in the context of STEM, arts or even their relationship with their peers and collaborators in a business environment.
Various studies have predicted that by 2030, anywhere from 5 to 50 percent of existing jobs will be automated through robotics, artificial intelligence or both. Machine learning and neural networks are a commodity now and incorporated into our everyday lives. Google’s DeepMind has conquered the complex game of Go. Microsoft offers a cognitive services package that anyone can sign up for. Amazon’s Alexa is in millions of homes analyzing speech and intent and getting better with each interaction.
We are only in the early days of this dramatic shift, yet its impending impact is so severe that it has the risk or entirely upending our society, and thus many individuals (Elon Musk) and governments (Finland) are starting to experiment with universal basic income, knowing that millions of jobs occupied by humans will simply be done more efficiently by machines in the future.
Fifty percent by 2030 is surely an extreme case, but it’s not hard to see that the jobs we should be educating our children for are the ones where it will take some time for machines to do better than humans.
To do so requires our educational system to value creativity, teamwork and interpersonal skills, rather than a laser focus on raw abilities in STEM. Being good at AP calculus or AP chemistry is no longer enough. Having the ability to apply those skills creatively by drawing from a broad base of knowledge and experiences will be required.
Successful people in this world aren’t necessarily successful because they are the best at calculus, chemistry, biology or physics. They are successful because they can think more creatively and more flexibly. They are able to analyze ideas from different perspectives and often from totally different viewpoints from their peers, because they are more creative, not because they are better at math. To foster this requires that we enrich our students’ academic experience beyond the textbook and standardized tests.
Many parents who strongly oppose the whole child approach are preparing their children for a path to success based upon their own tried and true experiences 20 or 30 years ago, without realizing that the future will require our children to have an entirely different set of skills, mindset and abilities.
I urge voters and parents in this district to research the predictions of how the job market will shift. Focusing on child’s ability to memorize and regurgitate will not adequately prepare our next generation to meet the future.
—Charles C. Chen, West Windsor