by Bernie Noe, head of school
I hope you all have a great end to your summer and are rested and ready for the new school year, which is nearly underway! Teams have started to practice, and next week, when everyone heads back to class, summer will be in the rearview mirror. I always love the beginning of school as both students and adults reinvent themselves each year, and we all begin with such energy and optimism — and the weather is still nice.
Over the summer, a friend sent me a great article about the new John Deere tractors currently being used in mid- to large-scale farming. They are amazing machines. They are totally computerized and linked to cloud-based systems that provide farmers with a foot-by-foot analysis of their soil composition and recommendations of nutrients needed to maximize crop outcomes. And, these tractors drive themselves with much more precision than the most experienced farmers, avoiding overlap between rows when planting and thereby preventing the overplanting that decreases crop production. Crop yield has increased 10 percent because of this new technology, thus paying back the cost of the machine in one or two seasons. And farmers now spend winters studying the data produced by the tractors (and other computerized farm machines) to plan the next year's crops.
While opinions vary on the intersection of technology, data, and farming, I believe that the work world will change as profoundly for our students as it has for farmers using these new tractors. Artificial intelligence, now upon us, together with the advent of other new technologies, means that some of our most basic tasks, like driving or getting a medical diagnosis, will eventually be done by machines. Our students will live in a period of almost continual disruption in the workplace.
So what will it take to thrive and be successful in this new economy?
First, and as I mentioned in my opening letter earlier this month, our students will need to develop the ability to see the big picture. They will need to look at problems from a multidisciplinary, metaperspective, not from a narrow view provided by deep understanding of only one field. At the high school level, and I think even in college, they should resist becoming overly specialized. Sure, they can major in computer science and take creative writing or dance at the same time, but when possible they should also take interdisciplinary courses that engage them with people and ideas outside their primary areas of interest.
Second, all of our students should leave Lakeside with a healthy curiosity about everything, closing no doors and enjoying learning with no specific end in mind. Everything our students learn will matter, regardless of how farfetched it may seem at the time. The world of the future will belong to those who love lifelong learning.
Finally, our students should stop planning so much and just enjoy what they are learning from day to day. Ironically, the openness engendered by shifting away from continuous planning will uniquely dispose them to thrive in a future that will be more affected by innovation and change than any period in the past 200 years. And, openness is also a much healthier mindset than obsessive planning!
So, parents and guardians, let's prepare our students for the exciting, dynamic, ever-changing world of the future by stressing the importance of a broad-based liberal arts education and lifelong learning, and also the joy to be found in learning. I have never farmed but I loved the article on tractors and am now looking for a good history of farming. If you have a recommendation, please send it along.
I will see all of you at games and performances this fall!
Bernie Noe is head of school. Reach him at Head'sOffice@lakesideschool.org.