Getting there from here. Where is “there”?

A growing number of students feel they’ve been sold a university education bill of goods. Many haven’t found work in their chosen field and despair of what they might find. This is not the fault of higher education.

For openers, universities have a vested and financial interest in seeing as many of their graduates employed as possible. After all, alumni funds are an important source of revenue. But even though the notion of what a university is and what place it should occupy in the community is evolving, its single most important mandate is and should continue to be to teach its graduates how to think. Universities are struggling to survive in a reality that’s as new for them as it is for all businesses. You don’t have to look any further than the Millennium Project in Flint, Michigan to see how serious university leaders are about the continued existence of their institutions.

Their role is to train minds to organize and assimilate information. What information has to be organized is the responsibility of the student. But for the moment, the romantic image of ivy covered walls and quadrangles is being set aside and replaced by one that is more in tune with the harsh economic reality with which we’re all dealing.

We’re all in this together.

There are more people walking the earth today than at any other time and many of them have placed their educational bets. We’re seeing the results: ideas for new products are coming to market in less time than they used to. The dollars parents have earmarked for their children’s university education should be spent carefully and deliberately. The world is a very competitive place and there are no signs that that’s going to change in the immediate future. And just when we thought we had wrapped our minds around the concept of a global economy, FORTUNE publishes Globalism Goes Backward in its December 3rd issue.

The good news is that technology has made it possible to access the vast amounts of information businesses everywhere are broadcasting about themselves. Our university graduates must, repeat, must learn how to access that information, evaluate it, internalize it and apply it. Not only for themselves today but also for tomorrow. Parents have a deeply vested interest in recognizing that the retirement and pension dollars they’re about to draw or are already drawing are dollars generated by the people whose education they’re either financing now or are about to.

Bruce Stewart mapped out a schema for identifying turning points in the evolution of situations in his November 9th post. He said, “Start with an intractable problem, one that makes it abundantly clear that the future won’t be an extension of the past.” Finding suitable work is becoming one of those intractable problems. As Yogi Berra said: “The future ain’t what is used to be.”

Understanding why things are the way they are may give you a leg up on where they might be going. You’ll understand how we got here from there. What you want and need to know is where “there” is and how we get to it from here.

Please click on Connections: An Alternative View of Change and watch the entire series. It will make Bruce’s ideas and PDD’s much easier to understand and apply. Including how to get there from here.

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