Jeff Selingo, an editor for The Chronicle of Higher Education recently wrote an article called "College Majors of the Future." In the article he talks about how for non-technical fields majors are not very important, he says "I have found, by talking to employers and educators, that what they want most in their workers is the ability to learn how to learn." He goes on to recommend that students focus more on finding a faculty member they can connect with, undertake a research project, study in foreign countries, and seek out exotic experiences; contending that practices like these lead to more well-rounded and capable workers.
Something Selingo mentions, but does not pay enough attention to, is childhood. He opens the article with "Kids get asked the question from elementary school to high school: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” If they followed through on their answers into adulthood, we would have a complete surfeit of teachers, firefighters, football players, dancers, doctors, and nurses." So while children are questioned about their future careers at an early age, it's only at adulthood that they should start preparing for those careers?
Imagine a world where elementary school students have meaningful relationships with their teachers, are regularly exposed to new ideas and places, junior-high students start to take responsibility for their own learning by researching topics of interest to them, and high school students have the opportunity to see new lands and meet new people as a regular part of their education. How would the world be different with such students entering college or the workforce?
The highly cited "Future Work Skills of 2020" study says that the next generation of workers will NEED sense-making skills, social intelligence, novel and adaptive thinking, cross-cultural competency and transdisciplinarity in order to compete in the (increasingly) global job market. Those types of skills are literally what can be developed with Selingo's approach summarized above.
Why skip over the powerful formative years of students and encourage only those who survived the standardized testing to become capable workers? Children and students everywhere need this kind of education NOW.