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Will students be ready to be out of the basement?

February 7, 2014

Yong Zhao’s son recently graduated from college with a degree in Art History. Because of his Chinese heritage, Yong’s son was worried about what everyone was going to think back in China. “How are you going to tell everyone that I have a degree in art?” he asked, his concern grounded in the age-old Chinese sentiment that only students who didn’t know much studied art. Yong reassured his son that he didn’t need to worry about that; it would be fine. He did, however, have one question: “Now that you are done learning what people have told you to learn, are you ready to be out of my basement?”


This idea that graduates need to be “ready to be out of the parents’ basement” was the theme of Mr. Zhao’s session. There are hoards of college graduates, yet hundreds of unfilled positions because companies cannot find qualified applicants. These graduates are still basement dwellers. Zhao maintains that students are stripped of skills like curiosity at an early age because we continue to use a curriculum that was developed over 100 years ago. 98% of students age 5 are creative geniuses. By the time these students are 10 this number drops to 30%. At age 14 only 10% are left, and by the time these students reach adulthood there will only be 2%. Middle class jobs of the future will be filled by the “creative class,” as the current middle class has dwindled because of automation and outsourcing. The current antiquated school model is broken. Schools need to foster curiosity and entrepreneurial skills along with individual talents.


In listening to Mr. Zhao, I couldn’t help but think of a great video about recognizing and nurturing individual talents, Failing Superman( 

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