The Platform


With all the talk about smart cities, you cannot have one if you still have a public school system which dates back to the 19th century. The original purposes of public schools were to create a new workforce which would move many from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy. We are far beyond that framework of an institution to facilitate the original transition to the Industrial Age.

We are past the Industrial Age, and at this point, past the Information Age. We are in the middle of the new Mobile Internet Age. We need to be able to access information anywhere at any time and not be bound by some wired connection in a classroom in order to have access. That means classrooms are not mandatory.

Have public schools become an anachronism to today’s society? Based on test scores, many are not delivering a good product: A graduate who can move into a modern-day career.

Dropouts and graduates who have a third-grade comprehension level are not going to be productive in today’s and tomorrow’s workforce and instead, will become a burden to society.

We need to transform outdated, educational Titanics into starships. We have moved beyond bricks-and-mortar stores in retail with e-commerce, why aren’t we moving beyond bricks-and-mortar schools and focusing on new electronic delivery systems and applications for courses with e-schooling? We should also be eliminating a lot of the deadwood faculty found in many school districts.

We have identified the benefits of working-from-home on a permanent basis, why not explore the ability to learn-from-home on a permanent basis as well? It may not be a universal solution. Nothing is. But, to have that option available to many people in substandard schools, it may make a difference in what they come out with as an education, when it comes to applicable skill sets.

We need to change the direction of the public-school curriculum to reflect the real needs of today’s and tomorrow’s workforce if we are to sustain a leadership role in the world economy. We cannot use terms like “digital divide” and “digital equity” because we need to address these facts directly and not dance around them with fluffy, obtuse euphemisms.

All parents should be asking whether public schools are using technology and broadband connectivity to the best of their faculty’s abilities to help educate students to be the next-generation workforce.

Taxpayers should be asking that as well. Why are we still using a framework for education which should have been radically restructured when we moved into the Information Age? Should it have been restructured again when we moved past the Information Age?

There are many school districts still teaching the Three Rs of the Industrial Age: rote, repetition, and routine. These are the skillsets for those wanting to move into a factory job. These are not the prime skill sets needed for jobs in today’s and tomorrow’s workforce. The Three Rs add up to regimentation which is not what we should be aiming for when it comes to giving someone a platform for success to build a career on.

Instead of having many teachers with various levels of competency, as well as various levels of motivation, teaching history, English, and other courses, why not select the best and have them broadcast courses to everyone so students get a quality course, instead of a poor course at some schools, a mediocre course at some and a great course at only a few?

Are the unions forcing cities to keep an obsolete organization and rundown facilities in order to keep many poor-performing employees well-employed? Why not look at new solutions and implement them? You would think technology is a threat to the teacher in the classroom. Automation has already proven itself in the delivery of goods and services. Why not the delivery of courses?

Clinging on to obsolete organizational structure as well as expensive-to-maintain facilities makes no sense. This is especially true since the upheaval of the classroom due to the pandemic and the requirement of students to study-from-home.

Teachers do not want to go back to the classroom, maybe they don’t have to. Many could be replaced by an automated delivery system of course content and lesson plans by a significantly smaller number of motivated teachers.

Maybe this resistance to change is prevalent not only in teachers’ unions but also in higher education where they should be looking at restructuring a much more effective platform for education than what was around when everyone still had buggy whips and rotary phones. As I have said in previous articles, 20th-century solutions do not solve 21st-century challenges.

Colleges need to develop a new type of education major. One that embraces technology, not one who shuns it. Some may argue that progress is already being made, but that does not get proven out when you look at real test results of large city public school graduates (and dropouts). Best practices are not found in bureaucracies.

We need to focus on skills beyond the STEM skills that some have talked about emphasizing. Science, technology, engineering, and math skills are a good foundation, but today’s students also need to have FACT-based skills: flexibility, adaptability, creativity, and technology skills in order to be competitive.

Look at the jobs today. No, not the minimum-wage jobs that some have been convinced are a life-long job, the jobs where high school graduates can move forward into a real career and support a family.

Intelligent schools utilizing the best in broadcasting classes and coursework via networks and automation can accelerate the elimination of the “digital divide” by multiplying the impact of good teachers across a larger platform for education while cutting back and eliminating the costs of bureaucratic waste of redundant administrators and ineffective deadwood teachers.

Automation finally impacts education more than a century after it has positively impacted manufacturing and other industries. Intelligent schools, utilizing the latest in classroom automation, need to be part of the foundation for intelligent (smart) cities.

James Carlini is a strategist for mission critical networks, technology, and intelligent infrastructure. Since 1986, he has been president of Carlini and Associates. Besides being an author, keynote speaker, and strategic consultant on large mission critical networks including the planning and design for the Chicago 911 center, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading floor networks, and the international network for GLOBEX, he has served as an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University.