Diversity: Demographics and Our Future: Divide or Exclude? Enrich or Divide?

 By Gary Marx

The handwriting is on the wall.  By 2043, fewer than half of all people living in the United States will be non-Hispanic white.  That’s been a reality for children through age 1 since 2011.  This tipping point was expected to stretch through age 5 by 2014 and through age 18 by 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

There’s more.  In August of 2014, Education Week reported that “Latino, African-American, and Asian students in public K-12 classrooms were expected to surpass the number of non-Hispanic whites.”  Source of that information?  The U.S. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

One thing is crystal clear, the traditional majority/minority society is fast becoming a minority/minority society.  No single racial or ethnic group will make up more than 50 percent of the population.  Nothing new for states and equivalents such as Hawaii, the District of Columbia, California, New Mexico, and Texas as well as many cities and communities across the nation which tipped during the past several years.

How does a country get so diverse?  The short answer is immigration and birth rates.  In the 1920s, immigrants came to the U.S. largely from northern and southern Europe as well as from Canada and Mexico.  In 2010, top immigrant-sending countries were:  Mexico, China/Hong Kong/Taiwan, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, El Salvador, Cuba, Korea, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Immigrants are often younger and more likely than the general population to be in their child-bearing years.  The face of the nation continues to change.  However, our motto remains the same, E Pluribus Unum (Of the Many…One).

During what can easily be called another age of mass migration, people are moving in droves from one part of the world to another, generally seeking opportunity.  That means receiving countries, wherever they are, face education challenges ranging from working with a diversity of languages and cultures to improving achievement for all students, whatever their backgrounds.

Social cohesion depends on maintaining an inclusive country or community.  To form that glue that holds us all together, we need to start with a basic premise or belief:  If we manage our diversity well, it will enrich us. If we don’t manage our diversity well, it will divide us.  Every diverse nation or community, to secure its future, simply must be flexible and inclusive enough to constantly reframe its identity in a fast-changing world.  Of course, that raises a basic question:  “Are we inclusive or exclusive?”

Let’s remember that the whole idea of diversity is constantly being redefined.  It’s no longer simply black and white.  In fact, the definition keeps growing and now includes:   social and economic factors, race, ethnicity, national origin, color, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disabilities, political and religious affiliation, language and linguistics, physical and cognitive abilities and qualities, political beliefs, educational background, geographical location, marital status, parental status, and life experiences.  Considering learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities, and emotional and behavioral concerns, we can add neurodiversity.[i]  Feel free to expand on this list.

Implications of diversity?  There are hundreds.  A constant challenge is maintaining that critical balance between what divides us and what unites us.  Depending on whether people feel their voices have been heard, they will very likely conclude that they are either in power or out of power.  We should never stop searching for our common denominators.  Of course, effective communication is bottom line, at the very heart of understanding.

Our steadfast pursuit of equal opportunity should be aimed at lifting all boats.  Educators should insist on high expectations for all students across all diversities.  A fast-changing, interconnected world demands an understanding of languages and cultures and a commitment to celebrating our differences.

The world is rife with conflict, often built on a firm foundation of misunderstandings.  How can we build bridges and find common ground?  How can we get future generations ready for life in a highly diverse world?  Those are questions we need to answer, not just once but every day across all political boundaries and in every family, school, and community.  Think of it this way:  Our children, our need for education and learning, and our future as viable communities and as a planet are among things we all have in common.

“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.”

William Sloane Coffin, Jr.

 Read More:

To read more about Diversity, check out Chapter 2 of Twenty-One Trends for the 21st Century…Out of the Trenches and into the Future by Gary Marx.  The book is available for single- and multiple-copy purchases to help us build an understanding of these and other trends far-and-wide.  Order from the publisher, Education Week Press, www.edweek.org/go/21Trends (print and electronic); from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Twenty-one-Trends-21st-Century-Trenches/dp/1939864046  (print and Kindle); or from Barnes & Noblehttp://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/twenty-one-trends-for-the-21st-century-gary-marx/1119436648 (Nook).

[i] Armstrong, Thomas, Neurodiversity in the Classroom, ASCD, Alexandria, VA., 2012.

Jobs, Careers, and Education: Is Education About Getting a Job?

By Gary Marx

About 60 percent of jobs ten years from now haven’t been created yet.  That’s a rule of thumb, compliments of Thomas Frey, jobs editor for The Futurist.

In one sense, that can sound like a threat.  Will I become obsolete?  In another sense, it’s an opportunity to imagine, invent, innovate, and both discover and use our entrepreneurial skills.  Yes, that means each of us might carry within our creative genius the seeds of a whole new industry or cluster of jobs.

In fact, another futures thinker, Cynthia Wagner, suggests, “One of the easiest ways to begin thinking about future careers is to focus on what may be a problem in the future and invent a job that solves it.”

Consider this perspective.  Employability skills are an innate part of education.  Yet, seeing education solely as a route to a job in the current economy comes up short.  Any specific job responsibilities often require further training.  That training is generally essential, but it’s not a substitute for a sound overall education.  Both are important.

Think for a minute about the education dividend.  As people 25 and older moved into the Great Recession in 2008, high school graduates made about $9,500 more a year than those without a diploma.  People with a Bachelor’s degree or higher, again on average, made between $47,700 and $155,000 more a year than those without a high school diploma.

Consider this stark reality:  We moved from an Agricultural Age into an Industrial Age and are now moving well into a Global Knowledge/Information Age, even an Age of Knowledge Creation and Breakthrough Thinking.  Jack and Jill, who needed specific skills to deck a car body on a chassis in 1950 now have to be robotics technicians.

In 1840, only 17 percent of the population held service job during a time when people lived in greater isolation and had to do things for themselves.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) now projects that by 2020, 79.9 percent of us will be working in service jobs.  The world changes around us.  That means we all need the resilience and adaptability that comes with a sound education.

What are some of those employability skills?  A 1991 skills in the workforce, SCANS Report from the U.S. Department of Labor identified basic skills, thinking skills, personal qualities, and work competencies.  Forbes Magazine has added: communication, building relationships, decision making, and leadership, plus planning and management skills.  The Conference Board of Canada suggests that collaboration is fast becoming central to employability.  Of course, the list could go on endlessly as we consider jobs and careers in both the public and private sectors.

I appreciate the thought provoking perspective of Damian LaCroix, superintendent of Howard-Suamico School District in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and a member of Futures Council 21 for our Twenty-One Trends book.  He observes, “Creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, innovativeness, communication, collaboration, and citizenship will emerge as more vital than natural resources, such as coal, natural gas, and lumber.”  That reality, he adds, “will cause a shift in power toward countries that esteem and invest in education.”  LaCroix declares that, as we move into a new era, the most successful countries will be those where “teachers are regarded as nation builders.”

Expect a growing demand for personal care and home health aides as well as registered nurses.  Demand will escalate for qualified people to work in data analytics, neuroscience, and nano- and biotechnology.  Plan on growing job possibilities for superconducting technologists and electro-chemists.  They are the ones who will lead us toward greater battery capacity and a smart grid for our electrical distribution system.

We’ll see a premium for inventors, engineers, technicians, entrepreneurs, and ethicists in energy, the environment, robotics, and many other fields.  Couple those possibilities with privacy managers, octogenarian service providers, and 3-D printing engineers.

Consider the rise of the home office, where people will need to be prepared to manage their own talents, time, and budgets.  Then ask, “What are the implications for education?”

Educators, including counselors and career specialists, are on the front lines of the future.  They know the crucial role all need to play as we guide students and our communities toward clusters of job opportunities, emerging careers, and even economic growth and development.  Most are insisting that the future be built on a sound foundation that is invigorated by lifelong education.

“Who am I anyway?  Am I my resume?”

A Song from the Broadway Musical, A Chorus Line.  Music by Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban

 Read More:

To read more about Jobs and Careers, check out Chapter 7 of Twenty-One Trends for the 21st Century…Out of the Trenches and into the Future by Gary Marx.  The book is available for single- and multiple-copy purchases to help us build an understanding of these and other trends far-and-wide.  Order from the publisher, Education Week Press, www.edweek.org/go/21Trends (print and electronic); from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Twenty-one-Trends-21st-Century-Trenches/dp/1939864046  (print and Kindle); or from Barnes & Noblehttp://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/twenty-one-trends-for-the-21st-century-gary-marx/1119436648 (Nook).

 

 

 

Generational Reality:  The Future is in Our Schools Today

Twenty-One Trends for the 21st Century
By Gary Marx

Think of it this way.  A 5-year-old who started kindergarten in 2014 will turn 65 in about 2074.  An 18-year-old high school graduate in June 2015 will turn 65 in about 2062.  The future is in school today.

The flow of generations is like an elephant in the room.  We get a glimpse when a teacher remarks, “These aren’t the same kind of kids I had in my class five years ago.”  Of course, the flow of generations is as natural as life itself.  In fact, because people, on average, are living longer, we now have about six generations coexisting in our communities, each exhibiting a tendency toward certain values, expectations, and shared life experiences

A school staff is generally a mix of the Silent Generation, born between 1925 and 1945; Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964; Generation X, born between 1961 and 1981; and Millennials, born between 1982 and 2003.  Our students?  They are largely those Millennials and members of what I’m calling Generation E (for Equilibrium), born beginning in perhaps 2004 and continuing until 2020 or2024.

Generational experts Neil Howe and the late Bill Strauss, after studying generations over centuries, discovered that every fourth generation has a tendency to repeat itself.  Of course, those common cross-generational show up in the context of new technologies and history-shaping events.  For example, the GI Generation, born between 1901 and 1924, was known as a “Generation of Heroes,” striving to save the world from tyranny.  Four generations later, the Millennials are generally insisting on solutions to accumulated problems and injustices.  Some have even taken to the streets or used social media to foment uprisings.  Like the GIs, they will have a profound impact on leadership and lifestyles.

Who are these Millennials?  People who really listen to them tell us that they generally have high aspirations for themselves but are becoming increasingly concerned about college debt and a scarcity of jobs they’d prefer.  To pursue their hopes and dreams and use their talents some are settling into occasional gigs, often short-term jobs, constantly searching for opportunities.  Many like the idea of being entrepreneurial.  “Start-up” is part of the vocabulary.  A common response to a problem:  “There’s an app for that.”  Millennials are, along with members of Generation X, tech-savvy.  (So were the Silents, who took us to the Moon with a lot less computing power.)

The ubiquitous Millennials, 76 million of them, are one of the largest generations in U.S. history.  While the description doesn’t fit everyone, here are some parts of their portrait:  optimistic, focused, high personal expectations, as sense of enormous academic pressure, digital literacy, comfort with teamwork, unlimited access to information and connections, and acceptance of a world that is open 24/7/365.  They generally see rights, for themselves and others, as givens.

Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, writing for ASCD, noted that, for Millennials, WWW doesn’t necessarily stand for World Wide Web.  It also stands for “Whatever, Whenever, and Wherever.”  That’s a particular challenge as we shape education for the future, striving to reach a generation of learners constantly using electronic devices, online or offline, listening to music, playing video games, talking on the phone, instant messaging, texting, sending and receiving emails, and watching television, Rosen observes.

As for the workplace, education or otherwise, expect this educated and diverse generation to be less concerned about position than they are about getting important things done.  These are people who often want instant feedback, hope to have their voices heard, and get uneasy when meetings don’t seem productive.  As for authority, they understand it but want to be treated as peers.  When they want something, they’re not afraid to say so, and it’s often the same things others want, too, but have never felt comfortable asking for them.

Millennials are willing to upsize by downsizing, trading a larger place to live for a small one that has style and is close to community, restaurants, nightlife, cultural events, and continuous learning opportunities.  In urban areas, many would like to exchange the traditional car for a bike and be within walking distance of work.

Growing numbers of Millennials are now parents of students in K-12 schools.  Expect Millennial parents to have high expectations coupled with some acceptable definition of instant communication and an opportunity to have their voices heard.  A reasonable goal would be to demonstrate that we’re all in this together.

As leaders, we need to be ready, even eager, to rally people in common purpose across generations.  Our future depends on it.

Read More:

To read more about Generations, check out Chapter 1 of Twenty-One Trends for the 21st Century…Out of the Trenches and into the Future by Gary Marx.  The book is available for single- and multiple-copy purchases to help us build an understanding of these and other trends far-and-wide.  Order from the publisher, Education Week Press, www.edweek.org/go/21Trends (print and electronic); from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Twenty-one-Trends-21st-Century-Trenches/dp/1939864046  (print and Kindle); or from Barnes & Noblehttp://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/twenty-one-trends-for-the-21st-century-gary-marx/1119436648 (Nook).