michio kaku skills future

World-renowned futurist Michio Kaku: This is what higher ed should be teaching students right now

Soft skills, ease with technologies are some of the most important skills undergrad students should be learning today for the future of tomorrow.

“The jobs of the future will be those that focus on intellectual capitalism, not commodity capitalism,” said Futurist, Physicist and Bestselling Author Michio Kaku during the recent 2017 EDUCAUSE conference keynote, held in Philadelphia, Pa.

This was the big reveal to the thousands of EDUCAUSE attendees ranging from college and university faculty to CIOs, and from some of the world’s leading tech companies to some of the country’s most prominent higher ed provosts and presidents—all anxiously awaiting what the crystal ball of the postsecondary future had to say through Kaku’s educated guess.

The Good News

Kaku began his keynote by addressing what he says is the number one question he’s asked about higher education: ‘Is it worth it?’

“I’m happy to tell this crowd that the numbers show that of the 30 percent of the population that has a college degree, those 30 percent also have the white-collar jobs with livable salaries.” So society as it stands today still values the college degree, he explained.

But…the way of things is changing, mainly due to affordability issues and the rapidly shifting economy. And if colleges and universities want to survive this adaptation, the skills today’s students are required to learn must begin adapting as well.

Why Old Ways Won’t Work

“I want to begin by telling you a story about my daughter when she was younger,” said Kaku. “She told me she was going to take the New York Regents Exam in Geology. I was thrilled. I thought: Yes. She will learn all about plate tectonics and rock formations, all about measurements of time through formations. In other words, the concepts that characterize the science of Geology.”

Unfortunately for Kaku and his daughter, this was not the case. “Almost the entire exam asked her to name the composition of crystals from memory. It was a test based purely on memorization,” he noted. “And I thought, she could easily look this up on the internet. This is teaching her nothing about what it means to be a geologist.”

Which brought Kaku to two critical thoughts about education today: 1) In the internet and digital age, where information is at the population’s fingertips anytime, anywhere, learning based on memorization and not concepts is incredibly outdated; and 2) “Junior high school is the biggest enemy of science today.”

“Every one of us is born a scientist,” he said. “We ask questions all the time about where we come from and why we’re here. And it’s in junior high, where students are still asked to memorize the Periodic Table, that science dies in the heart.”

(Next page: The new ways and the importance of intellectual skills)

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