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Education must support future careers

When I was in high school in Lake Oswego in the 1980s and early '90s, auto shop was provided as vocational education. Now as a parent with children in our elementary and junior high schools, I'm rapidly realizing that the future facing all of our children looks vastly different than last century's academic expectations.

In this dynamic world, the technological revolution provides a great deal of uncertainty. But it also provides an unprecedented opportunity for our schools to provide needed and additional options to our kids.

Our children are facing a very different world. We have an aging and diverse population, impacts of climate change and globalization, and a rapidly advancing digital technology landscape. In one recent estimate, nearly 50 percent of the jobs of 2030 have yet to be conceived.

However, there are things we do know. Regardless of your choice of career, evidence demonstrates that a high school diploma is not enough. Jobs are changing so quickly that our kids need the richest, most rigorous education we can provide them.

As a community, we need to continue to support learning for all of our children. This includes our children with special needs, our children who are seeking an elite four-year university preparation, the 10 percent of our kids who aren't graduating on time for a variety of life circumstances, as well as our students that want to pursue a 21st century career technical education certificate or degree.

In Lake Oswego, I believe we can and should be doing more to partner with our community colleges and universities — not only if students would like to be a firefighter or a nurse, but also to advance programs around science and technology education, creative maker spaces and micro-electronics. Beyond simply assessing test scores, we need to support our schools as they approach education around higher-level thinking and experiential learning to advance these critical thinking skills.

College costs are skyrocketing. In addition to AP courses, we should be partnering with higher education institutions to provide options including dual credit with colleges and accelerated learning. At Jefferson High School in Portland, every student has the ability to graduate high school with two full years of college credit in coordination with a diploma. In Lake Oswego, we should consider providing families additional opportunities to jump-start their children's college education.

Automotive repair is a great career, but the future of the car engine isn't rooted in the technology of a 20th century carburetor. Future careers will be based on an approach rooted in the development of critical thinking skills that can be retrofitted and replaced like a last-century transmission into a variety of complex career experiences. The development of critical thinking, regardless of the subject matter, provides the road to lifelong learning.

This editorial was originally published in the Lake Oswego Review.

Posted on January 27, 2017.