High Schools for Futurism: Nurturing the Next Generation; Foresight Techniques Have Been Absent from High-School Classrooms. Sociologist and Innovative Thinker Arthur B. Shostak Describes a School Curriculum to Inspire Young Learners to Use and Enjoy Futurist Thinking

Article excerpt

A variety of unique high schools--novel charter schools, cyber charter schools, and magnet schools--are opening across the United States. New York, for example, now boasts the Bronx High School for Law, Government, and Justice, along with the all-male Urban Assembly Academy for History and Citizenship. Another high school will be run by Amnesty International, and plans are afoot for a school to boost careers in sports. Thanks to growing demand for fresh learning approaches, futurists have a rare opportunity to promote development of high schools specializing in futurism. If we act swiftly, creatively, and with determination, we can help enrich pre-college education as never before.

For many years, futurists have influenced progressive school systems through programs like the Future Problem Solving Program (www.fpsp.org), Future Lab Expo (www.futurelabexpo.com), and the Institute for Global Futures (www.FutureGuru.com). Futurists now might help create entire high schools with futuristics at their very core. These schools would explore futurism, emphasizing the importance of rational, scientific, and commonsense thinking about the future.

Each learning center would be a smart combination of bricks and clicks--a physical site combined with interactive Internet distance learning. Each would honor basic high-school requirements while tweaking the curriculum so that it relied on lessons based in futurism. Schoolwork would highlight critical thinking, computer modeling, data warehousing and mining, discovery learning, environmental impact assessment, forecasting, social impact assessment, and technological assessment, among other futures features. Youngsters would gain an early appreciation of how these tools can promote national and world well-being. They would also learn about promising career paths in these areas before going off to college.

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In the best of possible worlds, an entire school system--from kindergarten through twelfth grade--would have futurism as its emphasis, and students would progress through the years through curricula strong in ever-more-demanding aspects of the subject. Until this lofty goal is reached, however, it would be wise to create real-world examples of several high schools devoted to futurism and call attention to their pedagogical and career-aiding successes.

Building a Futures Curriculum

Recognizing the unique nature of futuristics from the outset is vital to imagining a futures curriculum. Jeff Krukin, a graduate of the master's degree program in futures studies at the University of Houston, Clear Lake, explains the field as follows.

  It is a mixture of art and science, of the quantitative and
  qualitative, right and left brain, with a dash of heart and soul. This
  field must not be pigeonholed into a preexisting category of study.
  Most importantly, this field seeks to understand how seemingly
  disparate issues, forces, and disciplines are interwoven. While the
  scientific method seeks to break what is being measured into
  increasingly finite units, future studies should do the opposite and
  study the big picture. The most valuable part of my future studies
  education was learning to see and seek connections everywhere. This
  has given me a perspective of the world that I'm not sure I could have
  learned elsewhere.

A futures curriculum could and should include the following elements.

* Themes to unite curricula across a school community. Every year, certain writers and/or themes could help knit the entire student body together as a single community of scholarly concern. Attention during one year, for example, could go to the ideas of female writers of science fiction, such as Ursula K. Le Guin, or to minority writers, such as Walter Mosely, some of whom might be asked to speak at the school in person or via teleconference. Topics could be explored from A to Z, involving nearly every course and learner across curricula. …