Is Education Preparation?

Greg Benedis-Grab
3 min readJan 9, 2024

What is the purpose of education? This is an age old question that has been tackled by so many great thinkers. Sometimes education and STEM education in particular is framed as a way to prepare students for their future. Terms like Future Ready and 21st Century Skills speak to this point of view. In fact there may be merit to this way of thinking. The world is a complex and challenging place. We are not born with all the competencies we need to lead successful lives and to keep all the enacted human structures up and running. Some of the knowledge we need we learn at home and through the natural course of growing up. But there are other things that are better structured and supervised by society. Education needs to be planned and intentional for some of what is needed. Reading and writing might might not be what they have become today today if we did not have ways to formalize their teaching in schools. Sure there are plenty of opportunities to critique the development of textual literacy in schools but there are quite a few people on this planet who leverage this practice daily. Other cognitive tools wrapped up in the technology of computing should be taught and learned as well.

Ultimately we want young people to have rich meaningful lives in the future. We want to give them the skills and competencies they need to have these rewarding experiences going forward. And the older generation has been through a lot and learned some things along the way. If I can speak on a personal note, we have some things to offer that are worth sharing. In the spirit of disciplinary knowledge there are traditions and ways of thinking that need to be appreciated and internalized. This is all part of a formal education system. But all too often in schools the balance between shared knowledge and student agency is lost.

I think it is important to accept that the older generation does not hold magical keys to the future. In fact you might argue that we have done quite a bit to our planet and its inhabitents to taint that future. Some would even say we have positively destroyed things and they are not wrong. We have caused climate change. Destroyed so many ecosystems, biomes and natural earth processes. We have instilled hate between people and caused insurmountable suffering. We have committed genocide, colonization, and contributed many other unspeakable ills through history.

Is this the future that we want to enculturate for the next generation in our schools? It might be time to admit to some of the mistakes that have been made and acquire some humility in the process.

I think we need to realize that the young people who attend our schools are in fact the future. They are the hope that things can be different. Yes, we should share what wisdom we have with the young. We should build schools that empower them and prepare them to overcome the challenges we have beset upon them. We should try to help them in any way we can. But we should also not be getting in their way. We need to help develop their agency to change this world. We need to find the balance in schools so that they can make the world better than what they have inherited. That is our only hope in this world.

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Greg Benedis-Grab

exploring the intersection of coding, education and disciplinary knowledge