The fragmentation, isolation, insecurity which had seeped into the American psyche before Covid, has been magnified by Covid’s impact. Institutional confusion as to how to respond and the devastating results of very poor, self-promoting “leadership”, esp. in the initial months of the pandemic, has lead to much greater anxiety, distrust and resistance to anything resembling authority, expert or not, than ever before in recent history.
A generation of Gen-Z ers have known nothing (2001 to the present) but trauma, insecurity, a frightening disintegration of the floor of stability beneath them. The isolation necessary to control the Covid pandemic on top of the dysfunction of American political leadership and the growth of distrust in the stabilizing democratic institutions created in the past 100+ years, as torn the fabric of heterogeneous human relations and unbalanced the perception of what “reality” actually is.
What to do?
Students K-12 at least need a completely new set of educational experiences; ones that give them a deeper understanding of how to effectively manage their lives and how to make intelligent, thoughtful decisions about the present and future challenges life will throw at them.
A complete overhaul of the method of education, what students experience as learners, and skills that are relevant to a new world.
- Break the lock of standardized assessments (SAT/ACT), broadening and deepening mastery of concepts and the interconnectedness of all aspects of the human experience.
- Reframe the mission colleges and universities to present and future needs; to become places of creativity and dynamic discourse and inquiry, and not operate as corporate institutions with the financial bottom line being the driving impulse. This can only happen if all stakeholders (students, teachers, administrators, legislators, business leaders, politicians, investors, parents, communities) embrace a new model and mission for education. College should never be the place to build a resume, to jack up an individual’s “Brand”, as the status-driven vehicle for success will throw at them in a zero-sum American culture. That, pathetically, is what they have become.
There is simply too much to do, to get right in this moment, for us to continue replicating the deeply outdated 19th century educational model we have been swimming in for 150 years. That brittle, impotent model is completely misaligned for dealing intelligently and wisely in addressing the massive and complex challenges of today and into the next several generations.
The adults in the room need to act like adults and engage seriously in educational retooling, as a shared and financially painful effort to correct the skewed direction and crumbled institutional structures that are crippling America’s Gen-Z’s future.