A few weeks ago I saw a video that really stuck with me. It’s from a site called Skillshare, which focuses on a new form of education made available by advances in technology: the ability to “learn anything from anyone, anywhere.” Through online forums, Skillshare members create a worldwide community that connects anyone who wants to teach a skill with anyone who wants to learn it.
The video is called “The Future Belongs to the Curious,” and it celebrates how we are all programmed with curiosity from birth. This curiosity drives us to do amazing things, and those of us who can hold on to it throughout life have a competitive advantage. As a parent, the celebration of learning for its own sake is definitely something I can get behind
When I watched this, I couldn’t help but relate it to an article that recently ran in The Atlantic, “The Freelance Surge is the Industrial Revolution of Our Time,” which explored how the surging independent workforce is changing the way people view career paths. Skillshare and sites like it are helping this boom along, because they allow anyone with an idea of what they want to do to learn how to do it, regardless of education or background. It really is a life-hacking age, and those who are willing to think outside the box – those who are curious, in Skillshare’s terminology – are going to continue to have a competitive advantage over others.
The trend has made me wonder how to set our son up for success in a time when traditional forms of education are becoming both very needed and increasingly irrelevant. It’s hard to get anywhere career-wise in the United States anymore without a college education – that is, if you’re looking for a traditional nine-to-five job. If you want to freelance, however, you have many more options. In fact, I know many people who received their college degrees only to go into a freelancing in a technical field that had nothing to do with their education.
In the last few years, I’ve been conflicted about the role of higher education in the workforce. As someone who received both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, it obviously played a big role in my life, and helped to set me up for success. I also feel like it has made me a more well-rounded person and global citizen. After all, when else is one going to study Middle Eastern History in order to understand geopolitical conflicts if not in college?
But I’m very sympathetic to the burgeoning entrepreneurial cultural that says you can make something of yourself without going through the usual hoops. Part of the reason is that I’m still paying off my student loans, and will be for some time. With higher education costs going nowhere but up, forcing my son down the same path is beginning to seem antiquated.
I think the answer, for us at least, is going to be what Skillshare celebrates: curiosity. Curiosity can be explored both inside the higher education world and outside. I enjoyed exploring it within, and wouldn’t change my experience for anything. But if Miles wants to experience it outside of the traditional college experience, or with a mix of traditional education and personal exploration, I would support him.
The important thing is that Miles is a life-long learner. Curiosity means that he should be always seeking more knowledge – not to prove anything to anyone, but for the enjoyment of knowledge itself.
What about you? How are you setting your children up for success in the new economy? How are you making them life-long learners?
Caleb Gardner is an amateur father and husband who writes at The Exceptional Man and dabbles in photography, design, and music. When listening to the cacophony of modern-day America, Caleb prefers a side of Scotch. He calls Chicago home, and in winter, less-nice things.