There, some leaders are throwing support to PL not because it would be good for students or would solve educational problems, but because it would solve workforce development problems.
|Solving workforce shortages one widget at a time.|
“We know in the state we have a huge shortage in the workforce. We have a hole, both in meeting our workforce needs and in servicing our students,” Jones said. “We have about 12,000 kids graduate per year. About 7,000 of them go onto a four-year college — and we have good four year programs — but 5,000 are where? We can’t tell you. Schools can’t tell you.”
Ten-- count 'em, ten-- bills have been introduced to push the model across the state. Legislators are also "aiming to remove barriers in the public school system in order to encourage students to seek professional opportunities while they’re in school and to fill community worker needs."
This focus on "advanced opportunities" is a big part of the push, and the PL being emphasized here speaks very little about personalizing to the student's style or interests, and seems mostly focused on letting students set their own pace so that they can rip right through what passes for their education so they can get right out there and start being somebody's useful meat widget as soon as possible. This one of the worst versions of Personalized [sic] Learning-- a way to use a computer to speed a student through a checklist version of "education," because dammit those employers have jobs to fill right away.
I'm not going to pretend there isn't some careful balance to maintain here-- if your school consistently turns out students who are incapable of landing a job, that's not a good sign. But the primary focus of K-12 education should never, ever be vocational training. K-12 is about building skills, amassing knowledge, helping students become more themselves, more fully human in the world. Yes, being able to support yourself is part of that, but so is being a good citizen, a good voter and taxpayer, a good parent and partner, and just generally a person who's able to navigate the world outside of the workplace.
So statements like this one tend to make me nervous:
These bills aren’t just trying to encourage a re-structure of Montana's educational system, but they’re also attempting to fill a statewide labor shortage.
Students and schools do not exist to fill labor shortages. And if you told any parents from the ritzier part of town, "Oh, yes. Our school will do an excellent job of preparing Junior to fill our labor shortage," those parents would have Junior enrolled in a private school by the end of the day.
Oh, and computerized Personalized [sic] Learning is an excellent edutechnique because, Rep. Jones notes, the workman's tool of today is not a wrench, but a computer. So let's train those little meat widgets on computer and they'll be that much better-prepared for their future bosses!
This is Personalized [sic] Learning at its worst-- to mass produce workers like toaster as quickly as possible and in the process shrink education to a narrow, meager version of what a full education was supposed to be. Shame on the Montana legislators who plan to cheat their students this way.