Gazing into the Future

    DSC_0057Have you read our Deep Dive on Thacher’s Astronomy Program? If you haven’t, you should. It’s a great look at a model for academic work that not only requires students to take chances, make mistakes, and get dirty (see my last post on The Magic School Bus), but also highlights the essential role that curiosity plays in understanding and innovation.

    Much of what I read these days in the field of education is focused on dire predictions about the future our young people face—artificial intelligence displacing wide swaths of the work force, an ever-increasing wealth gap, climate change and all its collateral damage, decreased international security. And the list goes on. Schools, we’re told, need to prepare students to respond to this uncertain future, to solve as-yet-unknown problems and meet as-yet-unknown challenges.

    I suppose education has always been a futures business. As educators, we do our best to codify what our students will need in order to succeed in the future, to live a healthy, productive and meaningful life in a world whose realities we can’t know. We make bets today on what we think will happen tomorrow. That task seems increasingly daunting as technology develops at a rate never experienced by human beings. What can we really know about the future when the pace of change has increased so significantly?

    It’s enough to keep a director of studies up at night. And sometimes it does.

    But then I think about shifting my model from fear to curiosity. I remind myself that curiosity—a desire to understand, to think, to figure out, to make sense—can be a powerful tool in the face of the unknown. When we wonder, we open the door to possibility. And isn’t that a certain necessity in this uncertain future—possibility?

    If we can help young people engage with the world with deep and sustained curiosity and give them the tools to follow their wonderings, we might still be in the dark about the future, but maybe we won’t have to fret about it so much.

    What better way to spark big questions and even bigger possibilities than by putting a research grade telescope in Thacher’s observatory and turning our students’ eyes to the heavens? It’s just one of many bets we are making against whatever Tomorrowland has in store for us.

    Blossom Beatty Pidduck

    Blossom is Thacher's ninth head of school and a member of CdeP 1992.

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