The Future Makers

In September 2013, the Center for the Future of Museums and The Henry Ford Foundation invited a group of “policy experts, practitioners, funders, education innovators, reformers, student activists and others shaping the conversation about U.S. education” to a conference at National Building Museum in Washington, DC.

According to Elizabeth Merritt, founding director of CFM and a “professional museum futurist,” they were invited “in response to forecasts from CFM and other futures organizations that America is on the cusp of transformational change in the educational system.”

If you weren’t aware that there are powerful groups that forecast (plan) our future for us, read here for more.  Essentially, these groups, including Global Education Futures and KnowledgeWorks – both of which work with organizations as high up the chain as UNESCO – get together to create maps of the future they envision for the rest of us.

Curiously, despite their rhetoric of innovation and “disruptive” ideas, these forecasters all seem to have the very same vision of the future: doing away with our education system as we know it and replacing it with a digitalized, personalized-standardized, data-cized, competency-based system.

Oddly enough, this just so happens to be the same vision that giant corporations like Microsoft, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Exxon-Mobile have projected for us, along with members of the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Oh – and the US. Department of Education.

Merritt, of course, and her fellow futurists, are well aware of the corporate-driven push toward this new type of education system, where students carry around “digital backpacks” carrying their personal information.  In this system – which is rapidly being built with the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – non-teachers certify whether or not students have mastered enough Common Core Standards to earn digital badges, while a gold rush of data, cash and control flows to those at the top.

(It is, as I wrote here, no coincidence that the Peanuts Museum is Common Core aligned. )

Given all of this, it should be no surprise to anyone that this document from the Center for the Future of Museums predicts “the end of the neighborhood schools,” gushes about Khan Academy’s “learning analytics” and mind-reading technology, and is filled with references to all of our favorite ed reformers – Arne Duncan, Joel Klein, the National Governors Association, etc.

If you’re brave, you may also wish you check out one of the stories that was circulated at the meeting in September, which describes the life of a girl living in California in 2037.  Moya and her brother live in a “self-directed” capital-C learning Community, where they use Khan Academy Plus to “level up,” earn badges, and compete for rewards from corporations.

According to Merritt, “Exploring these possible futures helps us prepare for circumstances museums will contend with in coming decades. By challenging assumptions about education (universal; free; public; taking place in schools; directed by teachers), it makes us realize how very different things could be.”

Who knew a “museum futurist” could give us such insight into what is currently happening to our public schools?

At least they let us see into their magic ball.



Author: Emily Talmage

My name is Emily Talmage and I teach fourth grade at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston, Maine. In addition to teaching in Lewiston, I have also taught special education and general education in New York City, including one year at a “high-performing” charter school in Brooklyn. I also have two master’s degrees; one in Urban Education from Mercy College, and another in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. I have also worked as a research analyst and assistant at the National Center for Children and Families at Columbia and Oldham Innovative Research in Portland.

3 thoughts on “The Future Makers”

  1. Or is that a crystal meth ball?! Whatever kind of ball, it is truly ballsy. These futurists are getting ready for the time when, for climate reasons and poverty-related reasons, it will not be safe outdoors for anyone who is not be transported to corporate centers for work and play. And these are the people who are receiving their funding from the perpetrators of global environmental apocalypse. But then, these same folks follow the same line of “thinking” as George Bush, who famously said, when asked how history would judge him: “History, we won’t know–we will all be dead.”


  2. Love the graphic.

    The people in the 2037 Learning Community sound like characters in a Sims video game. Matrix, anyone?


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