A Futurist Speaks of Schools

During the first couple of hours of TAKS testing today I was a “reliever” which basically means I walked up and down a hallway and gave breaks to teachers in testing rooms.  Luckily I can walk and read at the same time, so I caught up on some magazine articles I have been wanting to read in Edutopia, Techedge and Teaching Tolerance.

I found Future School (an article in Edutopia) to be fascinating.  Basically the “article” is an interview with Alvin Toffler that gives his views on education and what he thinks it should be.

Although I may not agree with all of his thoughts or find them all feasible, I think they are definitely worth thinking about and discussing.

“The public school system is designed to produce a workforce for an economy that won’t be there. And therefore, with all the best intentions in the world, we’re stealing the kids’ future.”

Although “stealing their future” may be a little harsh, I don’t think we (public education in general) are preparing students effectively for their futures.

“I say we should radically multiply charter schools, because they begin to provide a degree of diversity in the system that has not been present. Diversify the system.”

Hmmm… not sure about that one.

“…we’re doing the same thing over and over again. We’re holding forty or fifty million kids prisoner for x hours a week. And the teacher is given a set of rules as to what you’re going to say to the students, how you’re going to treat them, what you want the output to be, and let no child be left behind. But there is a very narrow set of outcomes. I think you have to open the system to new ideas.”

Again, comparing students to prisoners is a little excessive (although I am sure they felt like prisoners during their testing extravaganza today), but I think Toffler is on target with the restrictions placed upon teachers and the need for an infusion of new ideas.

“The textbooks are the same for every child; every child gets the same textbook. Why should that be?”

I agree!! As more and more schools work towards 1:1 laptops, I think differentiating the materials from which students learn will become easier and hopefully more prevalent.

When asked about his vision for the school of the future, Toffler had some exciting ideas:

  • It is open 24 hours a day and students attend the hours that are best suited for them
  • Non-teachers work collaboratively with teachers
  • Students start school at different ages
  • The community is integrated into the school – business offices within the school, community members in the classroom, etc.

“… maybe teaching shouldn’t be a lifetime career. Maybe it’s important for teachers to quit for three or four years and go do something else and come back. They’ll come back with better ideas. They’ll come back with ideas about how the outside world works that would not have been available to them if they were in the classroom the whole time.”

I like this idea.  I am not exctly sure how this would work, but I think teachers could certainly benefit for taking some time out of the classroom to gather experience they can bring back to their students.

Many of Mr. Toffler’s ideas are radical, but I think we have to be willing to explore new and different options if we want to education to evolve alongside the rest of the world. 

Daly, James. “Future School.” Edutopia Feb 2007: 50-53.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Alvin Toffler, Education, Edutopia, Futurist, Schools

31 Comments on “A Futurist Speaks of Schools”

  1. Rebecca F Says:

    I agree with this article in how it is critical that we make changes in the school system. If we do not make changes then we can assume that the school system is flawless, which it is not. If we do not have new people and a new system helping educate the kids then nothing can be fixed.

  2. Cameron Says:

    I believe this is right yet wrong. I like the idea of starting over with the public education system. It is easier to create something when it is gone.But also if you get rid of the program children who can not afford other schools they will not get an education.

  3. matthew s. Says:

    i agree with the what you think. i think that the textbooks should be changed because they are always the same and everything learns the same things. it would be better if people would learn different things and teachers would teac different material and if it would be better material. it would be better for students too.

  4. Chadwick Says:

    I agree. This article is absotely right on how important it is to changes in the school system. The restrictions placed on students gives then a feeling like they have no freedom in and out of the schools. If they had away to make their own schedule, I bet we could see a real inprovement on their scores.

  5. Brianna Says:

    I agree with this article for several reasons based off the strong support that follows it. The public school system is in a dire need of change since the increase in population and the desire that the students and the teachers might want to accomplish in a certain area in their academic career and overall career. The curriculum is repeated and outdated which causes boredom an a lack interest. All people are different and want to aspire to do different things when their out of school. Teachers should be able to enforce what they believe to be the best system of learning in the field they teach in their classroom. Students should have books that correspond what they want to learn so they will be successful outside of the classroom.

  6. Andrew K. Says:

    I agree with the writter of this article because there are some ideas that are good but also some that are irrational. I expecially agree with the author when he says the public school system is preparing kid as much as they should be.

  7. Carol H Says:

    I agree with Mr. Alvin Toffler’s viewpoint. His idea of going to school at any time of the day (24 hours a day) is similar to my postion. Having set hours only limits the students in school; they can be allowed to go to school anytime they want. Also the idea of studying whatever you love is a way students will not be worried about other subjects they must dread to learn. The other subjects just weigh them down and waste their their to achieve their ultimate goal.

  8. AshtoN V. Says:

    I agree that teachers should take time off and recoperate because if a person continues to do something for a long period of time they tend to get bored and put less effort into it.

  9. Holt Argetlam Says:

    I agree mostly with your ideas. I very much agree that the school system that is currently being used is severly outdated. The purpose of a school, as the people describe it, is to educate the next generation and get them ready for life in the real world. Honestly, the school system now is anything but that. School teaches students many things but it overlooks many skills that are not specifically academic but nessesary none the less. For example, in many professions you may need to correct the person who is higher up than you but you must do that without making the person get defensive or angry. The only way you can learn that in school is to push the boundaries which then gets you in trouble. I’m not saying that school is only limited in this way, far from it. In fact, school makes you focus on about eight different classes but in the real world you will be concentrating on the topic of your profession and that’s it. I also agree that the system of books is sorely obsolete. The books teach you the information, but only in one format. Because of this, people who learn differently or are not interested in the connections that the book makes, because without intrest there can be little progress, are doomed. If someone is a science addict then they should be mainly learning science and the books need to be written from a different prospective than a book of a art student. I know, and all of of the people who have read many books (not text books) will agree, that an area of a book that is boring to you takes longer to read because you must look at it from a different prospective(or skip it). Teachers should also allow the students more freedom in class because no student can do their best while they fear that they might be breaking a rule. Not to mention, teachers should listen to students, but not as students. They should listen to what the students have to say as if an equal were speaking, not an inferior. Just because the students have less expirence dosn’t mean they do not have valuble insights that are just as good as an adult’s. In fact students’ minds are, and this is scientifically proven, more open to new ideas and therefore they are more likely to see something that the teacher dosn’t. Not to say the teachers should not command some respect, they do, but the students should also be getting some respect from the teacher.

  10. andrea c Says:

    I completely agree. I go to a private school, and the levels of diversity are much higher than that of a public school. We are offered a variety of different level classes, which I love. By offering different levels of classes, it makes the students feel more comfortable. If a regulars class is not challenging enough, you can move up to a pre-advanced placement class, and then an advanced placement class. Sure, it’s more work, but school just isn’t interesting unless you are being challenged. I also agree with the idea that students can come and go when they wish to. I am definitely not a morning person, so it makes it hard for me to concentrate in class when i’m about to fall asleep. We did a project similar to this in our English class, and our results were pretty much the same. We all agreed that the school would operate all hours of the day, so the students could come and go at their choosing. It just seems to make more sense. If you’re not going to get anything out of it or learn anything, what’s the point in even going?

  11. Jamie G. Says:

    The author of the article has some good points about our schools. I agree that the schools should be more open to new possibilities. I agree that public schools are in need of change. The students could also be better prepared if the schools were set up in a way that students enjoyed learning more.

  12. Dennis J Says:

    I agree with a few things named in this article. I like the idea of having a school with teachers that teach for a period of time,leave, and then return with a whole different aspect of life. This would allow teachers to give students more insight of society. I also like the idea of having a 24 hour school that would allow students to come when it is the proper time for them. I like this idea because it gives students a better chance to succeed. Most students have busy schedules that consist of many things not pertaining to school. This open schedule allows students to have a comfortable schedule. Last but not least, I like the idea of having a school that is more intergrated with the community a student lives in. This would give students familiarity with their surroundings which could possibly decrease the effects of peer pressure.

  13. Rudy S Says:

    This concept, in its entirety, is fascinating. Having done some philosophical research on methods of education myself, I connect strongly with the ideas presented in this interview. In fact, when presented with the task of creating a model educational system, many of the ideas I myself integrated where identical to those of Mr. Toffler. I too feel that our public education system is very outdated, craving a drastic reconstruction. The linear system of progression and limited choice of subjects available to students today truly fail our future generations. A specialized, unique educational experience could skyrocket the success of potentially adept youth. Let that youth have access to the knowledge of his choice whenever he desires and you will almost certainly get phenomenal results. Bravo Mr. Toffler, for making clear what is necessary to modernize the American educational experience.

  14. S. Seifipour Says:

    Since you told me that Mr. Stevens’ class is taking a look at this post, I thought I’d add this thought to their conversation:

    Does a 24-hour school have to be an actual, physical building? I, for one, am not crazy about the idea of having to teach a 3AM class….


  15. Thanks for all your insightful comments! I appreciate you taking the time to visit my site and comment so eloquently.

    It seems the overall consensus from you all is that schools need to change. Now that we have established this. How do we do it? What is it they we can all do to encourage the people in charge to take our ideas in to consideration? I would love your input on this.

    And, by the way, I am with you Ms. Seifipour… I don’t plan on teaching a 3AM class, but I think this can be rectified by teachers “sharing” classes as well as conducting courses virtually. I certainly don’t think all learning has to take place in a physical building.

  16. Keith Wyrick Says:

    The 24-hour part makes me begin to wonder if there will be a need for teachers. If the school is to be open all hours of the day, would schools resort to packaged on-line curriculum rather than teacher produced lessons?

    Just a thought that popped into my head…

  17. Keli L. Says:

    If a school was opened for 24 hours a day, then the students who would normally all be packed into the same building for the same amount of time would be spread out and most likely would have certain times where they are busy, and others where there are very few. Because there would be as many students as there would be if it was a normal school day, it’s possible to use as many teachers as before, but have their working times spread out to accomodate the number of students who checked in at different hours. Say 5 P.M was a busy time, then have most teachers work then, and have only a few working during 3 A.M

  18. Kyle Stevens Says:

    Hello all:

    Thanks for allowing are class to be a part of the discussion. The publishing of this article came at an opportune time for our class. We have spent the first part of this semester reading selections from Plato’s Republic. Our discussions of justice, the role of the state and education let to the outlining of Utopia High. The student outlines of Utopia High included the following points:

    Categories of people at your high school (e.g. Students, teachers, etc.)
    School schedule
    Curriculum
    Extracurricular activities
    Facilities (e.g. Libraries, labs, etc.)
    Admission requirements
    Causes for expulsion

    I thought it would be interesting to see the thoughts of students in relation to the thoughts of education professionals and recognized national thinkers. Thanks again for allowing us to enter the discussion and if you are curious about the entire plans created by our class, feel free to visit our Blogmeister site and select any of the student names under English I Pre-AP.

    Enjoy your day,

    Kyle Stevens

    http://classblogmeister.com/blog.php?blogger_id=21053

  19. Holt Argetlam Says:

    Teachers would not be requiered, as much. Rather, because computers and books cannot respond to a certain situation, teachers would be there to clarify questions that are not “uniform” and in the book. Also, the teachers could provide valuble insights on many topics. As for the early morning; what student would want to, or be able to, learn at that time? None. so teachers have little to worry about.

  20. andrea c Says:

    We also reached a speed bump whenever we were trying to decide what the school hours were. I like the idea of the 24-hour school, but as S. Seifipour said, who would want to teach a class at 3AM?
    Isn’t this the same problem with fast food restaurants, like McDonald’s? Who would want to have their shift at like 1 in the morning? But still, people take the job. The need for the money is stronger than the need for sleep. So don’t you think that some teacher somewhere would want the job just to be able to pay rent?

    I also like the idea of not always having a physical building for class. It gets awfully boring sitting in the same old classrooms hour after hour, day after day. Who ever said change was a bad thing?

    Online courses could be a good idea, but coming from a student, you just don’t get the same experience from a computer. If you don’t understand the curriculum, a computer can only answer so many questions. And spending your whole day in front of a piece of metal that can’t think for it’s own does not sound like too much fun. But then again, many people sit in front of the computer all day for their jobs. So, by taking online courses, are we preparing for our future of working in the industry?

  21. S. Seifipour Says:

    To clarify my intended point:

    I would like to see a school that is entirely without walls, and that utilizes resources like podcasting, wikis and blogs, and interactive applications like Yackpack.

    Like I said, I’m not actually going to teach at 3AM. But that doesn’t mean my students couldn’t access on-demand resources online and have virtually the same experience they would in a classroom – only on their time and at their own pace. Maybe I gave a lecture at 2PM, but afterward I uploaded it to a wiki as a podcast. In fact, I could then be delivering that same lecture (virtually, of course) at 4PM, 6PM, 10PM, and yes, even the dreaded 3AM – or whenever the student found it convenient. Any student who had questions could send me a Yackpack, and they’d have a response as soon as I woke up the next morning – OR, even better, they’d have an immediate response from a classmate who happened to be on Yackpack at the same time.

    Teachers as facilitators, students directing their own learning…. A girl can dream!

  22. Lauren G. Says:

    I especially agree with your idea of schoo beign open to students at any time of the day. This way students will be able to work and lear according to their schedules. Also students should be able to start at which ever age collaborate with their skills.

  23. Michael C Says:

    Schools should prepare children for their futures. It is very important that students are given variety at the school and not just have the same old, same old. They should have difr=erent textbooks according to what they are interested in. There should be much diversity in the school. All stundets need challenge, but at the same time, give them some fun. Let students give ideas on how to improve the school. It would help them to furtue success. I agree that the students should pick when to go to school, but if it is open 24 hours a day, that would not be fair for the teachers. Students should start school at different ages. That gives the school some diversity and variety. I think the community should have some part in the school, but not a huge part. Leave school with some suggestions and ideas. Do not let the community take over school. Remember, school is for students to learn new things for the benefit of their future.

  24. Teresa G Says:

    Although the article makes some good points, I disagree with most of what it has to say. All students are given equal rights to learn, and I think it should stay that way. It is important for students to have a choice in what they are to learn, but that is why electives are provided. Colleges also offer courses that allow students to study whatever they want. What if a student were to think that he wants to become an architect, so he takes all classes required to become an architect, and later changes his mind and wants to become a doctor? All that he had learned will no longer be useful. Also, all students do not use the same textbooks. Many children choose to be in AP classes, so they use a different textbook than others. The others had the chance to take that class, so it is fair for that student. All students should have the same opportunities, so it is important for all students to take required courses, so they will be best prepared for their jobs in the future.

  25. Rachel G. Says:

    About the textbook thing, everyone learns at a different pace. Some people, even though they may be the same age as someone else, may be on a completely different learning pace. You can not just give everyone the same textbook and expect them to all learn at the same pace and retain the same information.

  26. Mary O. Says:

    I agree that schools should be diversified and think allowing teachers to leave for a period of time to gather more ideas is wonderful and would greatly benefit the students. I did not, however, see how a school could be open 24 hours. I find there to be many difficulties in this idea, but if we could achieve a system such as Seifipour explained with technology taking a key role, as a student myself, I think it would be successful.

  27. Nathan C Says:

    I agree that schools should be open 24 hours but I don’t agree that it should be a school that you should go to. Because I dont anyone would want to teach a class at 5:00 AM. I think schools should be diverse so that students can lean in a comfortable surrounding so that the infomation will flow better.


  28. […] by musingsfromtheacademy on February 27th, 2007 About a week ago I posted my comments on an interview with Alvin Toffler in […]

  29. Kathy S Says:

    I think that a lot of what Toffler is saying in his article is exactly what the Academy was supposed to be when it first opened. More a part of the business world. Kids who are interested in sports should be immersed in sports history etc.

    And I think he is right on target when he says it is the educational system or bureaucracy that teachers have issues with. I believe at the heart of all teachers is the desire to teach meaning, importance and relevance and the way the system is set up it is nearly impossible. I also agree with Toffler that schools are educational institution. They can be sometimes more of a nuthouse than a prison. I loved that Toffler raised the question of starting school at age 5 or at age 8. You know some kids are not emotionally developed and they just get shoved through the system because of their age. If they were a little more mature when they started we would see less problems from insecurity. There are many kids in high school who still just want to be home with mommy. I’d like to see more schools geared towards occupations, sciences, and arts, created for student likes and interests. Not necessarily a charter school, they will go the way of public schools soon enough.

  30. FinalCurve Says:

    […] idea on the future of schools. I noticed this article in reading my wife’s blog, Musings From the Academy. After conducting a Technorati search on Toffler I found another blog posting on the article at […]


  31. […] the whole Toffler interview here or download here. And read the comments by high-school students here (pointer: Angela Stevens). Trust me it’s worth it.Ignore the stuff in Julian’s post […]


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