One of the consequences of this state of affairs is that knowledge is becoming obsolete at an ever accelerating pace.
This leads to a paradox: Education is becoming both less and more important at the same time.
It’s becoming less important in the sense that education–or what you learn–will have a shorter “shelf life.” It’s also more important in the sense that you will have to learn more just to keep pace (i.e. the educational treadmill just keeps getting faster.)
The paradox is resolved by unlearning two ideas. The first is that an education is something to be “obtained” and which only accumulates over time. It’s not. Much of a person’s knowledge base becomes stale and must be actively discarded throughout one’s life.
The second idea worth unlearning is that academic credentialing institutions–high schools, post-secondary institutions, colleges, graduate programs, etc.–are the only (or best) means of acquiring new knowledge.
The breakthrough or the paradigm shift that these organizations have achieved is that they understand that: One, the educational process is never-ending and, two, that the ultimate purpose of education is not about a person obtaining a credentialing piece of paper in the form of a diploma, rather it is the ability of a student to demonstrate mastery.
As Sebastian Thrun suggests in this piece (How would like a graduate degree for $100?), “It’s pretty obvious that degrees will go away.”
Why will degrees go away? Because in a world of free, high-quality education it won’t matter if you obtained your knowledge by going to Harvard or whether you self-taught yourself in your basement. What will matter is your ability to demonstrate mastery and that is precisely what Khan Academy, EdX and Udacity and others are now offering.
Interested in other thoughts by leading educational futurist Jack Uldrich? Check out these recent posts: