A Cultural Change

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We have no idea what the world is going to look like in 5 years. Sure, we can assume that our mand-made necessities—such as smartphones and televisions—will still be around, but we really have no idea what the world will look like. Who will be the president of the United States? He or she will surly enact policies that will in some way shape America, and perhaps the world. More than likely also someone who is still in high school or college now will invent a new app or technology that becomes integral to our society.

Imagine I ask you what the world will be like in 5 years while we are in the year 2002. Yes, we will still have cell phones and televisions and the Boston Red Sox, but no one would have been able to foresee the rise of Facebook in 2004. That was a game-changer that schools in the 1990s weren’t preparing us for, simply because they didn’t see it coming.

At the time that I am writing this, the average first grade child will retire in about 64 years. Assuming they start a full time career after completing 4 years of college, that means they will be in the workforce for 42 years. Colleges today are preparing students for a world that is 42 years away, yet none of us knows what the world will look like 5 years from now. To put that into perspective, as of now (2019), 42 years ago was 1977. Colleges in the 1970s probably weren’t teaching students about social media branding and content streaming, yet these are invaluable pieces of knowledge in today’s corporate world. Imagine what will be dominating our world in another 42 years that we can’t imagine today.

Creativity has shaped our culture and our species, yet something happened in the early 20th century that squashed our creative potential: Henry Ford invented the assembly line in 1913 to mass produce his automobiles. The assembly line, an ingenious invention that propelled innovation forward in the 20th century, required many people to work in unison, without question. These workers were given simple tasks to complete over and over again, day in and day out. As a result, as the century progressed, more and more lower and middle class jobs were as assembly line workers. This resulted in a shift in our public school system to teach children how to work at such jobs. The new way of school taught children not to think, but to do what is told of them for 8 hour each day. This created an army of skilled employees for such assembly line jobs, and the industries flourished.

Times have changed, and assembly lines jobs are no longer the default for the average American. But public schools have not caught up to these changes. They still follow the same rubric as they did back when children were being trained for assembly line jobs. Kids are taught to memorize information and repeat it back to the teacher on a test. This is far different from learning the information. This system of schooling was designed to teach kids how to follow orders and not think for themselves, and as a result kids are still growing up with a squandered sense of creativity. An assembly line worker who tried to think of new, more effective ways of doing his job could have been a threat to the efficiency of the whole line, and so such creativity was taken out of children at a young age. But an employee of a corporation today that brainstorms ways of making her job automated, thus freeing up more time to tackle other projects at her company, is a valuable asset. Unfortunately, our public schooling system produces less and less of the latter. We call people like this “entrepreneurs.”

Artists imitate entrepreneurs. We see a problem (a vision of the art inside of our heads that isn’t yet in the real world) and devise a solution (bringing that vision into the real world through an artistic discipline). What entrepreneurs should do is imitate artists; deliberately pursuing creativity and practicing it.

They’re both so similar, and can learn a lot from one another.

Ryan Lally