On Today’s Workplace and Education

guest written by Justin Ballou

I am a sucker for stupid comedies. There is something about 90 minutes of raw laughter that can just turn any day on its head. This past week, I was able to get in sections of a movie that some of you may (or may not have…) seen: Office Space.

If you haven’t seen this movie, I will give you a brief rundown of the premise…all without letting you know how it is going to end! Centering on the main character, Peter Gibbons, the movie paints a picture of a group of employees that resent their work and attempt to bring down the company and middle-management boss. Throughout the movie, we see the stereotypical office, lined with cubicles, desktop computers, and traditional office wear. The boss, walking around, touching base with his employees to make sure their monotonous, menial tasks get done. It’s an environment that drains the humanity out of the actions of real people in order to get the most physical production out of them as possible. Sound familiar?

Why do I bring up this movie in an educational blog?

Because presently, this is what we have in our educational landscape. Take a look at the stereotypical educational institution and you find the same, rigid setup spanning our landscape.

Bell rings. Class starts. Teacher gives info. Teacher gives reinforcement activity. Brief review. Bell Rings. Repeat.

The same repetition of pandering to the middle has created a cookie cutter institution that came about when we were a production-based society. But that is now passé. Our systems are COMPLETELY different now. And what do we have to show for the change in the times but the same system replicated? We’re just hoping to produce more and certify in the end that the students who walk across the stage are ready to tackle life’s great opportunities.

The question still remains, are we truly preparing them for those opportunities?

Look at the workplace now. With technology at the state it is in, we can conduct business, on the fly, 24 hours a day with teams spread across the globe. Businesses are attempting to create solutions to real world problems, as many of the tasks associated with menial work are being conducted using smart technologies and systems to free up valuable human capital to provide the commodities that the market needs.

Yet, we find our classrooms still preparing students for the jobs that are no longer in abundance. Just as in the movie where the employees get bored, unmotivated, and start to rebel a bit, students are becoming more and more disenfranchised by an old system that does not fit the present schema. They are pushing back. And doing so not because they are any worse than we were when in school….rather they have more possibilities in front of them and do not sense value in what they are doing.

Does this mean that we totally revamp what formal education looks like? YES!

Do I have the master plan? No.

But, if we do not prepare them with the skills and technologies they will need in the “real world” while they are being educated, we cannot expect them to exhibit those traits in the future. And, as the landscape has changed so very much in the recent past, if we do not create an environment that fosters the knowledge and skill-sets needed, we find ourselves in a more serious situation the longer we wait.

How to start? That’s a whole other blog post for another day. I do know that we need to begin the transition of revamping our schools to reflect the new “real world” sooner than later or we really are not fulfilling our obligations as teachers, parents, and communities of providing the foundations for students as they become productive members of society.

Have some ideas? I would love to hear them! Leave a comment!


About the author: Justin Ballou is a high-school Social Studies teacher in New Hampshire. Besides teaching, he is active running an education startup called EduTech and enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife. With edtech and authentic learning as his go-to topics, you can reach him at jballouteaches@gmail.com to ask questions or leave comments and follow him on twitter (@nhjbteach).

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