When I was younger, much younger, I read a science-fiction book where life on a particular planet was difficult because the landscape was constantly shifting. If one substitutes conceptual and occupational for physical landscape, one could as easily be talking about Earth at the beginning of the 21st century.
Our system of higher education was designed for a stable conceptual and occupational landscape, the kind where our parents and their parents grew up. One went to school, maybe even attended college, and took a job. One retired from this job, perhaps having been promoted along the way. Many of today’s jobs did not exist during our parents’ days and those still existing often have the same name as before but require much more sophisticated skills. Jason Wingard and Michelle LaPointe note in Learning for Life: How Continuous Education Will Keep Us Competitive In the Global Knowledge Economy that we have left many of today’s citizens ill-prepared for the current occupational landscape. Our citizens’ skills, even many of our youngest, mismatch with the demands of today’s economy. Cynical politicians sometimes promise a return to the good old days, but they do so only
to collect the votes of the disenfranchised. Similar to other educated people, they know that the old jobs a e not coming back because the world has moved on; many people have not moved with it, are stuck in an occupational landscape that no longer
exists, and have become lost.