Teaching for the Unknown Future

Education is not simply bringing up-to-date what has been discovered in a particular area of knowledge. The faculty has another obligation to students which is extremely difficult to discharge well. The faculty must develop leaders and thinkers to meet the unknown future.

As an example, consider one type of engineering. Technically, a person can be trained to build roads, railroads, and bridges according to existing patterns. But they must be and are trained for more than just that. They are led along lines of thought which some day will enable them to be creative and meet new situations. If there should be a trend, for example, toward monorail vehicles to solve the problems of crowded city streets and parking, well-trained engineers could solve such new problems without having to return to college for a special course in monorail construction.

The simple example used is not representative of the most difficult problems that lie ahead. Automation, use of leisure time, increased numbers of aged persons, the population explosion – these are challenges for which no college course, no textbook-reading professor, and no fine set of audio-visual aids or slick novelties can prepare tomorrow’s leaders. Teaching for the future centers upon developing the student’s imagination, creativeness, and capacity to obtain new information and evaluate it. This is why “critical thinking” is stressed in nearly every college course.

A trio of indispensibles comes to mind: With three kinds of things, one can handle most problems. These are the tools, the know-how, and the will to tackle and finish the job. The physical equipment, including the classrooms, laboratories and libraries, constitute the tools you need for self-education. The faculty trains you in know-how. And you have to supply the will to tackle and finish the job.

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