Generation Z will revolutionize education

My kids are Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2010. And I wonder: what can we see in those kids now that can tell us what they’ll be like later, at work?

As a history student in college (history of political thought, for all you fans of the Republic) and still an obsessive researcher of generational demographic trends (everyone should start with Strauss & Howe) I understand that to study history (contemporary or ancient), you must study generational shifts in thinking, because the way the generation thinks helps us to understand and explain historical action. And maybe predict future action.

So I think a lot about what Generation Z will be like. I have written before about what Generation Z will be like at work , but I’ve been thinking, recently, that the way Gen Z is educated will change the workplace when they enter it.

Baby boomers changed politics, Gen X changed family, Gen Y changed work, and Gen Z will change education. Here’s how the education of Gen Z will affect us at work.

1. A huge wave of homeschooling will create a more self-directed workforce.
Homeschooling is going mainstream. We have known for a while that public education in the United States is largely terrible. Yes, there are pockets that are exceptional, but for the most part, we have an education crisis on our hands. But Baby Boomers were too scared to solve the crisis with homeschooling. If you homeschool your kids, you take them out of the typical ways to measure how well kids are doing in the competition. Baby Boomers couldn’t handle that, and they also wanted to work full-time, so instead of homeschooling, Baby Boomers got kids tons of tutoring and extra help after school.

Gen X is more comfortable working outside the system than Baby Boomers. Gen X women are fine quitting their jobs to take care of their kids—they have no feminist ax to grind in the workplace. And Gen X parents don’t feel a need to have their kid compete because Gen X is so noncompetitive. So homeschooling among Gen X parents is becoming mainstream. It’s no longer just for religious radicals and problem children. Homeschooling is for parents who know public schools are broken and don’t have $20,000 a year for private school.

This means we will have a generation of kids who grew up with largely a self-learning, self-directed model. They are more accustomed to figuring out what they like to do, and doing it on their own. The crisis to figure out what to do with one’s life will not last so long because Gen X will raise more independent and self-directed kids.

2. Homeschooling as kids will become unschooling as adults.
We have established that school does not prepare people for work. In fact, Gen Y has been very vocal about this problem because a) they did everything they were told to do and it didn’t help them get a job and b) we have a national crisis because gen y has huge debt from college and little ability to pay it back.

With alternative schooling and an emphasis on independent investigation, Generation Z will be the first group of knowledge workers who were trained to do their job before they started working. For example, Generation Z will be great at synthesizing information because they will have been doing that—rather than memorizing—the whole time they were in school.

The workplace ramification of this shift in learning is that Generation Z will have no problem directing their careers. They will know how to figure out what skill to learn next, and they will have more self-discipline to do it on their own.

When Gen Z enters the workforce, the older people, Gen X and Gen Y, will work to live, not live to work. This will be something Gen X and Gen Y fought hard for. To Gen Z it will be easy to do and self-learning will take center stage in their work day. So, as qualifications for the workplace will rapidly change and older people who don’t keep up will be outdated, it will be Generation Z that is best at keeping up. Not because they are young, but because they understand that unschooling is not a movement for kids, but a way to live a life, and it doesn’t stop when you start getting a paycheck.

3. The college degree will return to its bourgeois roots; entrepreneurship will rule.
The homeschooling movement will prepare Generation Y to skip college, and Gen X is out-of-the-box enough in their parenting to support that.

One of the books that really changed the way I think is Zac Bissonnette’s book, Debt-Free U. He explains why no one should go into debt for college. It’s just not worth it. He says, even if your parents have the money to pay for college, use it for something better—like buying yourself a franchise and learning something that’ll really help you establish yourself in the adult world.

Baby Boomers are too competitive to risk pulling the college rug out from under their kids. And Gen Y are rule followers—if adults tell them to go to college, they will go. Gen X is very practical and is also the first generation in American history to have less money than their parents. So it makes sense that Gen X would be the generation to tell their kids to forget about college.

Ninety percent of Gen Y say they want to be entrepreneurs, but only a very small percent of them will ever launch a full-fledged business, because Generation Y are not really risk takers. However I am guessing (based on links like this one) that most members of Gen X have, at some point, worked for themselves. The entrepreneurship bug will be in full force when Gen Z comes along. They will feel they have no choice but to do that or weather an unstable workplace with huge college debt. People will trade in a college degree for on-the-job learning. The result will be a smarter workforce and the end of universities as a patronage system for philosophers.


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  1. Eduard - People Skills Decoded
    Eduard - People Skills Decoded says:

    These are the kids that are born with broadband Internet access. Online communication will be in their nature from the start. It’s clear for me that they’ll change the way education happens to align it better with the evolution of technology. Let’s hope they’ll also revolutionize they way we teach in terms of psychology, not just technology ;)

    • Bonadventure
      Bonadventure says:

      I hear this argument often but I have a question.

      Who would you want to repair your plane someone who recently graduated from university with a masters degree in engineering or a highschool dropout who has been repairing planes for years?

      • SandyS
        SandyS says:

        Good point, but most likely someone with a masters degree in engineering will not be repairing planes for a living. They may be training the people who repair the planes, but someone with a masters in engineering will not be on the tarmac fixing a mechanical problem.

  2. awiz8
    awiz8 says:

    Sounds great, but where are we going to find engineers and scientists who need the advanced knowledge that university level learning confers?

    You really want to trust yourself and others to an aerospace/chemical/civil/mechanical/electrical engineer learning as he/she goes?

    You might find a “natural” engineer or “natural” research scientist here and there, but if you think there are more than in 1 in 100,000, you’ve been watching too many bad science fiction movies.

    • Randy
      Randy says:

      My dad was an engineer. He did it without a degree, without even finishing high school. He was very smart. He basically rose through the ranks of worker, technician and then engineer. The competency of and engineer is something that can be readily tested and certified, though it could also be done through apprenticeships.

      • awiz8
        awiz8 says:

        So, do you think a company, like General Electric, that needs hundreds, if not thousands, of engineers NOW, is going to take the time to teach all the math, science, and engineering over a 4-6 year span, full time, to a horde of “apprentices”, in order to get the engineers it needs?

        You’ve got a far more optimistic outlook of the long view of today’s senior corporate management than I do.

        • M
          M says:

          GE already is taking this approach in many aspects of its recruiting. Nothing against engineers but it appears that the indoctrination of the existing system creates cultured limitations in the flexibility of an individual to think beyond their teachings. It has driven the value of hybrid degree programs. (Industrial Distrbution, or hybrid engineer/application paths.)

    • chris
      chris says:

      Engineering licensure in all states but a few requires an ABET accredited 4 year degree. the fields today are too advanced to do what he did back then. There is also talk that a masters will be required for structural engineering.

      • CaryAnn
        CaryAnn says:

        Um, no.

        Each state and territory varies slightly, but in general, there is a four-step process required to obtain engineering licensure and become a professional engineer.

        Step 1: Graduate from an ABET-accredited engineering program.

        Step 2: Take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam which earns you the Engineering Intern (EI) or Engineer-in-Training (EIT) credential.

        Step 3: Gain engineering work experience. Many jurisdictions have specific requirements about the type of experience you need to gain. Most require that you gain experience under the supervision of someone who is already a licensed engineer, and that your experience involve increasing levels of responsibility.

        Step 4: Once you have gained the appropriate engineering experience, you can take the second exam in the licensure process, the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE). This exam is given in a variety of engineering disciplines. Once you are granted licensure, you may use the distinguished designation “professional engineer,” or P.E.

    • Ryan Booth
      Ryan Booth says:

      Neither Orville nor Wilbur Wright went to college. Their high-school eduations (one didn’t even graduate) were enough to enable them to become the most celebrated engineers of their time (after Edison). The reason for that is that a high-school educaton then taught so much more than it does now. Most high-school graduates a century ago are more educated than the average college grad today.

      • Brooke
        Brooke says:

        In regards to the comments on how we need people with college degrees for engineering, scientists & those who may see homeschool as a bad thing…

        Look at our history –

        Homeschooling is seen as an “alternative” to public school now BUT …….. back in the day……..

        The wright brothers were homeschooled so were many presidents George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson; composers such as Bach, Mozart….

        even Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison…
        without them we wouldnt have the telephone, electricity, ect….
        check out the article below for more people in history that were homeschooled.

        • Chris K
          Chris K says:

          How many parents of this upcoming homeschooled generation are capable and outcompetent enough to direct, educate, comprehend, and explore high level science and engineering with their children? As an engineer with an advanced degree, I can appreciate the expertise I had available during my education as my abilities flourished past my parents comprehension. ask yourself this, could you challenge your children within the fields of calculus, biochemistry, physics or computer science? college is necessary for the education of these professions, and acts as a litmus test for those incapable of grasping these advanced concepts, thus enabling employers to pick qualified workers.

          • Connie O
            Connie O says:

            You said it yourself, Chris, ” I can appreciate the expertise I had available during my education as my abilities flourished past my parents comprehension.” As I posted, our vet has a homeschooler in his office 12 hours a week since her dream is to become a vet and her mother is facilitating that in every way possible. The girl observes procedures and surgeries that she wouldn’t be able to attend until college otherwise. I know nothing about coding, and yet my 11 year old has several games up on his website that he has created by taking college-level tutorials and tutoring with friends and family in the field. My son just indicated that he wanted to try public school and we found out a few days ago that he would have to be bused to the highschool for math, and that even the advanced science program offered nothing new for him. My son is not gifted. But when you get individualized instruction and can learn at your own pace, slowing down when necessary or speeding through with the goal of MASTERY, without the limitations set by others, then the potential to learn more, faster, is present. Parents also have the ability to locate the BEST tutors for their children. Their children are not limited to teachers who may lack any real-world experience or may have scored in the bottom of their class. My cousin is picking up my son and taking him with him to work one day next week. My cousin programs robotics. It should be a wonderful field trip.

  3. Tatiana
    Tatiana says:

    This article is really interesting, but I can’t help but feel there are certain racial (and therefore economical) demographics to consider. This article definitely struck me as middle class, and white. Homeschooling may be “the future” but it’s also incredibly time consuming and expensive. If you’re the working poor (or just plain living in poverty), you’re probably working a minimum wage job for over 50 hours a week, and don’t have the resources, time or possibly the education to really teach your kids anything.

    Racism is not dead, and there are very little signs of it going away any time soon – and definitely not before “Gen Z” becomes college aged. And I think this is paramount to consider when discussing the fate of any particular generation – we’re not all created equal, and racial influenced culture (ie: black culture) has a certain mindset that mainstream white america doesn’t understand. So I’m hesitant to really agree that 90% of Gen Y wants to own their own business; what demographics are they looking at? Who are they talking to?

    Not all of us have equal opportunity across boundaries of race, economic standing, sexual identity, physical ability and the list goes on.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I have written before about how diversity is about economics, not race. Here’s the link:

      And it’s very clear to me that poor kids would like to own their own business just as much as rich kids would. Poor kids are exposed to the same US culture that glorifies entrepreneurship that rich kids are — so how absurd to think that poor kids wouldn’t want that as much as rich kids do.

      • Tatiana
        Tatiana says:

        While I definitely appreciate you responding to my comment, I feel you’ve missed the point. My comment wasn’t solely or specifically about how being poor would shape your RELATIONSHIP to an idea, but your ABILITY to achieve it. The public education system is bad because of the economic disparity that exists – typically between whites and not-whites. I’m sure there are tons of poorer blacks who want to own their own business, but as a culture, I don’t really see a lot of emphasis on that. That’s what my comment was about: how racial culture influences a individual (or an entire community’s) perception about an idea. In white america, there are tons of icons and role models for starting one’s own business, but not so in the black community. There’s also – I have found – a lack of support system in terms of blacks helping other blacks. This is a problem in the community that white people don’t necessarily have to deal with from my understanding and observations.

        So what I’m talking about is the IMAGE. Homeschooling is expensive, but who are the people you see doing it? White people. Starting and owning one’s own business has its trials and tribulations, but who are the people you see doing it? White people (for the most part).

        The people who get the most voice, the most attention are white people. It’s called white privilege for a reason. And while being black isn’t a death sentence, race IS important whenever you bring up a discussion in regards to any and all things because race implies culture, which has a history and to ignore someone’s race is like saying that what they went through as a people isn’t important or not relevant to the discussion at hand. And while I’m sure there are plenty of blacks who are able or willing to start their own businesses, you can’t ignore racial identity, and what being black in america actually entails.

      • Shefaly
        Shefaly says:

        I think Tatiana is making a broader point, if you look at countries that are patently _not white_ and are holding most of the economic bargaining chips right now. I pick two. India and China have huge regard for formal education – especially for maths and science which another commentator pointed out, although both nations are making huge creative strides in a Jeffersonian way, as the globalised generations grow up – as well as have their own models of entrepreneurial thinking and action, which are hard to understand from a distance, if you have never travelled to or lived in either of the two countries. Further, the state does nothing for you in terms of health and old age care, so people are forced to be “enterprising” in all spheres of their lives.

        At least in India, which I see more often, as prosperity percolates down, more and more are seeking education and skills that give them a place in the global economy (a point another commentator has made).

        And finally, I’d rather not be operated upon by a self-taught or home-schooled surgeon. Would you?

    • Rachele
      Rachele says:

      I agree with you to some extent. I am not inured to my level of privilege. While my family does not make enough money to be considered “middle class” we are white and living in the suburbs of a major city which provides ample educational and cultural opportunities. I am married and do not have to work for us to make ends meet. Not everyone is in a situation where homeschooling is viable, nor is it possible for every parent to fund a startup business for a child coming of age.

      However, the archetype Penelope is describing may well change the social landscape in this country enough that people of all races and classes will find themselves with new opportunities. Apprenticeships and mentoring may not become the norm any more than homeschooling is the norm now, but both are gradually becoming more widespread.

      As a homeschooling mother, we discuss social issues in the context of our history studies constantly. We’re not forced to plow through a textbook at a prescribed pace with 20 other kids, so we can have lengthy discussions. We’re not stuck at a desk 6-8 hours a day, so we can participate in community service and local government as part of our studies. And I’m not forcing any of this on my kids; it’s fueled by their own idealism and compassion, so they will likely carry the importance of activism and social equality with them into adulthood. Hopefully they will be forces for the kind of change this article envisions.

    • Robin
      Robin says:

      Guess what the fastest growing segment of homschoolers are? African Americans. I just read that a couple of days ago.

  4. April
    April says:

    I am a scientist, and while the university training that it requires will not go away, believe me it will change. It already is. There is an enormous shift happening now with how scientists are trained, and you do need to be able to adjust your skill set quickly.

  5. sophie
    sophie says:

    I think she’s also forgetting the rules of social interaction, which homeschooling kids often lack. After school activities don’t make up for the regular involvement students learn from in the classroom, things like tolerance, cooperation, communication–all necessary in the real work world.

    As my college kids say, you can spot a homeschooled kid suddenly exposed to the real world within minutes.

    • Harriet May
      Harriet May says:

      I think this really depends on what kind of parents you have doing the homeschooling. My nutritionist homeschooled her four kids, and raised them heavily involved in sports. Team sports.

      Even if you don’t have a triathlete nutritionist for a mother, there are community centers that are offering more and more activities for homeschooled kids in response to this trend. And then there’s the internet, and I’m sure there must be homeschooler “meetups” of some sort in this day and age.

      Having been educated at an English boarding school, however, the American system fascinates me. Take the use of multiple choice, for example. I think I did perhaps one multiple choice test in my entire high school career. Even in P.E. we wrote essays.

    • Heather
      Heather says:

      Actually the read socialization problem plaguing home educating families these days is having to turn down so many wonderful options so that we can et some school work done. You mention “things like tolerance, cooperation, communication – €“all necessary in the real work world.” Yes… they are necessary in the real world, which is where my kids live, taught by their parents, grandparents, elderly friends with whom they volunteer at the food bank, the myriad of kids they play sports with, the neighbors on the street, the kids they met at the state robotics competition, the college prof who taught my 8yo how to dissect frogs, the oncologist who gave an interview to my son about why liquid tumors can’t be cured and so many others.

      What is not particularly beneficial to social growth is to spend eight hours a day sitting in a room.

      I think that many people still think that the majority of us home educators still run around with denim jumpers on and have a goat tied up in the back yard!

      • Pirate Jo
        Pirate Jo says:

        I think it’s great that your kids spend time with so many people of varying ages. The thing about the current school system that seems most destructive to me is this business of kids spending all their time around kids of within a year of the same age. Real life is nothing like that. And I’ll bet your kids don’t get bullied, either! The public school system is remarkably like a penitentiary, and I’m glad to see people getting away from it.

    • NetWriterM
      NetWriterM says:

      *rolls eyes* You must be a boomer. My father says the same thing to me about Homeschooling. The argument seems to be a generational thing.

      I’ve actually read about Homeschooling and connected with local resources. I actually know what is involved, firsthand. Do you?

      Didn’t think so.


      • EMM
        EMM says:

        I have nephews and nieces who were homeschooled, and there IS a difference. The main one is that mommy got stuck with/chose to do the homeschooling. That means 1) daddy made enough money so mommy could stay at home 2) daddy was in a recession/lay-off adverse career or daddy worked incredible hours and constantly moved the family 3) mommy had better pray daddy didn’t dump her.

        My kids and other nieces/nephews grew up in homes where 1) mommy had a great paying job, 2) mommy and daddy took equal parts in their educations, 3) the family could pick and choose which fabulous public school to attend and 4) mommy never ever had to worry that if daddy died, or dumped her, that her standard of living would suffer.

      • Christy
        Christy says:

        I find your response so interesting that you base your whole idea of what the ‘typical’ modern home school family looks like based on a few family members and their experience. I would strongly recommend that you immerse yourself into that lifestyle of many different families to see what that lifestyle is like. I am a home schooling mom that works outside the home and still takes the time to teach my children, because it is THAT important, or rather THEY (my children) are that important. Furthermore, I know other home school families that have BOTH parents working full time out of the home and BOTH parents teaching their children. Is this the norm? Well, not necessarily, BUT it is becoming more normal to see home school families from varying backgrounds, and functioning well in a nontraditional form. As for the lack of socialization… YOU.HAVE.GOT.TO.BE.KIDDING.ME!!! Get real, and get educated!

    • TheShan
      TheShan says:

      Isn’t it interesting how people tend to fear what they don’t understand? I’m talking about home schooling, in your case.

    • Robin
      Robin says:

      It depends on the reason for homeschooling. Some parents choose to shelter their kids. We lived in a lower middle class neighborhood in which kids ran around in bare feet and enjoyed an old fashioned hide and seek after dark childhood. It also just so happened that the neighborhood kids were split between five different schools, private and public, so many did not go to school together. I also made sure my home was the touchstone with plenty of koolaid and cheap snacks. my kids were often the leaders of the group, but not overly bossy. As they grew up, they were very independent and responsible workers, and made healthy friendships easily.

  6. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    The big (and false) assumption here is that education is about getting equipped for a job.

    It’s not. It’s about learning and expanding who you are.

    University education is about learning to think critically. This is vital for democracy, because citizens who vote need to be able to think critically. This wouldn’t be a problem for an Aspie, since Aspies are hyper-logical. But for the rest of the population, becoming a logical thinker is hard, hard work.

    The problem with home-schooling and un-schooling is that the kid is limited in what he/she’s exposed to. The parent chooses the curriculum. If your parents are religious, you get religious indoctrination. If they’re crunchy-granola-heads, you get the antiestablishment doctrine. Whatever – you don’t get exposed to a wider range of thought. You’re schooled in your parents’ prejudices. So while homeschooling might prepare you for a job, it’s not an education.

    Sure, changes are coming to education (though public education in my country is *not* broken, and I find school today very exciting), just as they are to the workforce. We’re going to need new models.

    But if we talk about education as if it’s only job-prep, then we lose something important. And we surrender our intelligence to the powerful who want to lead us around on a leash.

    • Melanie
      Melanie says:

      Your comment sounds as narrow-minded as you accuse homeschoolers of being. I wonder if you actually know any homeschoolers.

    • aniwabe
      aniwabe says:

      Really? Do you think that public schools *don’t* indoctrinate kids with a certain viewpoint and set of assumptions?

      I know for a fact — as a homeschool parent in a large support group (about 200 families) — that homeschool kids get incredibly diverse educations, because each family is its own school district! They each choose their own curriculum, reading lists, extracurricular activities, etc. Each family has a unique set of opinions, both religious and political. There are hundreds of choices for homeschool programs; we don’t use the standard “trade” textbooks which have had all the life sucked out of them and are politically correct to boot.

      The lockstepping is found in the public schools.

  7. Wooden U. Lykteneau
    Wooden U. Lykteneau says:

    I think it’s true that this Generation won’t be as likely to go to college because they feel like they have to, and their parents (the Gen X’ers) who have been screwed continually (name another generation that’s suffered through three recessions before its members turned 50) will understand that getting a degree isn’t the guarantee that it used to be. But they’ll still send their kids to public school because they know that the relationship between time to home-school and ability to do it is almost always inversely proportional.

    • Katherine Anderson
      Katherine Anderson says:

      I’m sorry I just laughed in my head and then out loud. lol

      I’m a GenX “kid” who homeschools our GenZ kid. And I’m pretty typical: slow to commit (sorta) and slow to have kids, burned by many a recession, yes. Went to uni, got degree like a “good” kid should, which my parents didn’t encourage me at all to do being the war babies they are, they were burned by the first big crash and then the Great Depression, and never recovered enough to aspire to sending 4 kids to college. So the government paid for part and I owe a heck of bill I can’t pay. Typical GenX college experience. Ask around. And no way am I encouraging college after seeing that my child of 7 can read with none of the drilling in phonics I at first thought might be necessary.

      It would be hard to find a more outgoing kid, who never meets a stranger, doesn’t go nuts in public (or private), considers tons before making a decision but definitely insists on making his own, but not without collaborating first –and not just with his parents but with others too (kids and adults).

      He’s hardly dependent on his parents’ worldviews. Even there, his mom thinks very differently from his dad. Usually dynamically opposing views. The thing is both his parents respect his decisions even when they can’t agree, and they get to practice on each other a lot. So.

      Still smiling about GenX not homeschooling their kids. Very funny. Oh and most of the homeschoolers I know are my age and younger. Sure are. lol

  8. Lauren Milligan
    Lauren Milligan says:

    As a proud Gen Xer, I happily disagree with you about Gen X not being competitive. It wasn’t until Gen Y that “everyone who plays gets a trophy!” (and trust me, I’m saying that with as much mockery and sarcasm that I can muster). Thank God my competitive nature wasn’t sucked out of me by ill-informed ‘do gooders’ that insist that it’s just as good to lose a ball game as it is to win. Maybe Gen Z will be the ones to get rid of the World Series and Super Bowl.

    • Emily Van Metre
      Emily Van Metre says:

      This might sound counterintuitive, but I think that the everyone-gets-a-trophy mentality is a cause of why we’re so competitive. No one can handle the thought of losing anymore. Once we all caught on to that everyone getting a trophy trick, we escalated what was necessary to feel accomplished and valued. Gen Y is a generation that needs recognition, needs to feel special, and needs to know that if everyone else got a trophy too, well then I need a ribbon to stand out. Now as we’ve recently entered the workplace, Gen Xers (as frequently our managers) aren’t quite sure how to handle this. It’s not enough to do well and get a positive individual performance review. We’re insecure, we want to know that doing well means doing BETTER than someone else, we’re competitive! Rankings, benchmarks, easy access to data where you can compare your salary, responsibilities, accomplishments to your peers. We are competitive not with ourselves and our personal accomplishments, but in our need to see how we measure up against everyone else. I’d say that makes us very competitive.

      • Dan Fay
        Dan Fay says:

        What’s funny about the “everyone gets a trophy” comment is that it was really meaningless to me (I’m an early Gen-Y) when I was in those “everyone gets a trophy” situations.

        We all knew the difference between a few people getting a trophy and everyone getting a trophy. Moreover, the “everyone gets a trophy” situations mostly occurred when we were fairly little (< 10 years old).

  9. Mikael B2B strategist
    Mikael B2B strategist says:

    I always take the time to read your postings, as they always bring a twist to the subject matter. Sometimes a completely new perspective.
    My concern is how we slow learning humans will cope with the increasing pace of modern living – technology in particular. The real revolution is when not only a hand full of bright individuals are capable of inventing the future, but when vast numbers of active people become part of it.
    To understand history, we should try to think like those who lived at that time. How do we train everybody to think about the present or even the future !?

    • Katherine Anderson
      Katherine Anderson says:

      Technology itself is a great learning resource and apprenticing tool as well as the biggest encyclopedia ever. The revolution in the technology of gaming interfaces has sent the ability to simultaneously learn solo and with others into orbit, and I doubt that kind of learning can ever be replicated in schools this slow to reform.

      So if you have someone who is slow to learn, sending them to school may keep them behind the 8 Ball.

  10. Rich
    Rich says:

    Great post, and a great topic. I have 4 kids that fall into this generation, and my take on how they might revolutionize school/work is with patience…because of the development (re-discovery?) of the family as their base. If Gen X’s parenting is more hands on than Baby boomers, and if Gen Y is coming into education/workforce with the experience/expectation of split families, Gen Z might be different.

    As a Gen X parent, we are not pushing our kids out the door, telling them to make it on their own. Instead we are encouraging our kids to let their lives develop and don’t rush into educational commitments. Gen Z will look at educational options like no other generation: home school, charter school, Junior College, online degrees, with normalcy instead of exceptions. Because of that they won’t be getting an education with the degree in mind but instead the outcome.
    My hope is that they will be the first generation to force ‘for profit’ colleges (and, really isn’t that all of them?) to be accountable for their product and price point.

  11. Kris
    Kris says:

    “Generation Z will be the first group of knowledge workers who were trained to do their job before they started working.”

    We’re called engineers, and we all have jobs.

    • Chris K
      Chris K says:

      funny how these extremely important and exceptional professions (all fields engineering and hard sciences) are discarded in this article. I would agree that most degrees in liberal arts are an economic drain and do no realistic job training. I wonder how many commenters fall in this category? Does the author?

  12. Tiffany S.
    Tiffany S. says:

    I love this post, and I really hope you’re right. The Gen Z kids are the children mainly of Gen X, right? I’m Gen Y and I worry about my ability to homeschool my kids because of economics. It seems like most households nowadays need two incomes just to afford a middle class life, especially with extras like education debt, etc. I hope Gen Yers are able to homeschool their kids too. I think it’s time parents take more personal responsibility in their children’ss education.

    BTW Penelope, do you homeschool or kids, or do private school?

  13. Steve Gotz
    Steve Gotz says:

    “Generation Z will be the first group of knowledge workers who were trained to do their job before they started working. For example, Generation Z will be great at synthesizing information because they will have been doing that…the whole time they were in school.”

    There is an interesting discussion in this observation. This seems to presume that the ability to synthesize information is independent from technology platforms. However in 10-20 years time technology platforms will be able to filter, adapt and recompose information in ways that are customised for each specific individual’s needs and preferences. Which begs the question, will Generation Z be better at synthesizing information or will they just be better at interacting with systems that perform the task for them?

    A good analogy relates to use of GPS systems. Studies have shown that people who consistently rely upon GPS for navigation tend to experience a decrease in geospatial abilities. Susan Greenfield from Oxford tends to be a bit alarmist but she has some interesting ideas on the subject.

    PS: Have you thought about switching comments over to Disqus or IntenseDebate?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Oh, wow. This is a really interesting comment, Steve. I had not thought of this aspect of information processing. Like, maybe we’ve peaked, right now.

      And, if I had Disqus then I’d vote your comment up top. So, I think I’m going to send an email to my tech guy right now to ask him to move comments to Disqus.


      • Katherine Anderson
        Katherine Anderson says:

        I think the idea that people who use a technology become dependent on that technology is true. (Many not all) children who learn to read early tend not to remember things as well as children who learn to read late and must remember things in sequence, in context, complete with intonation, body language, and other images to go with events, etc.

        For instance, actors don’t interpret scripts well if they continue to stick to scripts after the first read-throughs, and they know that! An adept actor presses to master other skills and to know their part through multiple filters. Some of these use reading, listening, watching, psychoanalyzing (audience as well as one’s part and other parts), mirroring, mimicking, and stretching the part in as many ways as possible.

        And the use of many filters is only made more possible with technology. Have you used the GPS for other than its intended use? You probably have without noticing! If so, you might see that the GPS is not as limiting as you think it is. Writing off the little things you notice curtails learning from things that haven’t been pointed out by something or someone else.

        The technology is not doing the learning. And the learning is in noticing and making connections. Someone who wants to direct their own learning could start with the assumption that the learner is doing the learning, not the technology.

        The GPS does not, by itself, truncate learning anymore than reading does. However by only emphasizing the intended use of reading (to educate/communicate), the GPS (to navigate on the roads, etc) and other technologies … of course we can truncate learning by relying on these things to play a clearly defined role and only that role!

        Remember the first rule of statistics: correlation does not mean cause.

    • Carolyn Fox
      Carolyn Fox says:

      As a Gen X of a Gen Z (b. 2005), I have to agree with Penelope. I think the homeschooling/unschooling movement is growing too strong and big to ignore.

      Unschooling is the open source way –

      Gen Zers are digitally born into a global, digital world. As such, they should receive a global, digital education, but they don’t. Instead, they are receiving the same static, fixed, passive, controlled auditory-sequential learning that generations have had.

      For social change to occur, Gen Z needs to embrace the free/open source mindset and philosophy that started with free/open source software in the 80s. Already, we have governments around the globe to making digital information freely available and accessible to ALL with free/open source. The US, though, is lagging behind, but for how long?

      I think we forget, but Gen Xers were the first to grow up with Sesame Street and Jim Henson. They saw the global impact Jim Henson and Sesame Street had with television and creating social change through it.

  14. Madeleine Todd
    Madeleine Todd says:

    I’m a baby boomer, and I homeschooled all 6 of my kids (now 18-29) right through high school. Who do you think STARTED the homeschool revolution? Terrified? Nah, exhilarated to have found an alternative.

  15. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    I have an amazing little brother who is Gen Z and it was very exciting to read this article about his up and coming generation.

    Having said that, I’ll be blunt and say I was alarmed to find out that homeschooling is on the rise. As a child of Babyboomer parents and a Gen Yer I think there are a few points missing here in your post and in the comments.

    Although this has been slightly touched upon, I think something we’re forgetting is that public/private schools socialize kids, which given that something like a whopping %80 of people get jobs through networking is an important point to make. Unless Gen Z radically changes this practice, being home schooled could be very detrimental to them. I know parents enroll their kids in team sports and other activities but from my experience it’s simply not enough. What my parents did was enrolled all of us kids (my fellow Gen Y sister and Gen Z brother) in public school and took the time outside of school to work with us when we were having problems in a subject, be it reading, math, etc…

    Another point I’d like to hit upon is the fact that to even be considered for most jobs now days you have to have a bachelors degree (or relevant experience) which is why I don’t think it will be possible for Gen Z kids to even get hands on training. I’ve been trying to break into a new career without going back to school and it’s been pretty close to impossible (side note- I have a bachelors degree). Also consider that when Gen Z enters the workforce, Gen X and Y will be the head honchos making the hiring decisions, so it will have to be Gen X & Y making some radical changes to their hiring practices (which is possible).

    My degree, admittedly hasn’t gotten me far and I often wonder what would have happened had I waited a few years after high school to really think about what I wanted to be when I grew up… So I dearly hope Gen Z takes time before spending the money on an education they may or may not use.

    All in all, great post. I’m excited to see what Gen Z’s will do.

    Thank you!

    • Randy
      Randy says:

      I disagree that homeschoolers don’t get socialized as well as those in schools. In my experience, homeschoolers tend to socialize with many age groups rather than with one specific age group so that their network is much more diversified and that diverse network is, as far as I can tell, better able to move the young person into a job than a network that is composed primarily of same-age peers.

      • Heather
        Heather says:

        Randy, you are so right. The socialization issue is the most tired homeshooling stereotype in the book.

    • NetWriterM
      NetWriterM says:

      I think Penelope should put a note that anyone who brings up the tired trope of poor socialization in homeschooling will have to do some kind of penance.

      Seriously ridiculous.


    • Debbie
      Debbie says:

      schooling myth no. 1: Socialization. ‘But will your children fit
      in??!!’ We hope not. Followers fit in, leaders stand out. ‘But what
      about time with kids their own age?’ What about time with all ages? And
      you were once a child — what did you learn that was so great, from kids
      your own age? Usually when a kid shoplifts, or sneaks his first smoke,
      or vandalizes somebody’s property, he’s not with his grandmother at the
      time.” — Rick Boyer

    • Debbie
      Debbie says:

      schooling myth no. 1: Socialization. ‘But will your children fit
      in??!!’ We hope not. Followers fit in, leaders stand out. ‘But what
      about time with kids their own age?’ What about time with all ages? And
      you were once a child — what did you learn that was so great, from kids
      your own age? Usually when a kid shoplifts, or sneaks his first smoke,
      or vandalizes somebody’s property, he’s not with his grandmother at the
      time.” — Rick Boyer

    • Jennifer Shay
      Jennifer Shay says:

      “Another point I’d like to hit upon is the fact that to even be considered for most jobs now days you have to have a bachelors degree (or relevant experience) which is why I don’t think it will be possible for Gen Z kids to even get hands on training.”

      What you’re talking about here is supply and demand. If there is an overwhelming amount of people with undergraduate degrees, then businesses are going to use that as a benchmark. Basically, people with an undergraduate degree are competing for jobs that absolutely make NO use of all the money that was spent on an undergraduate degree. I have colleagues with master’s degrees who are doing work that can be done with 5 years of office experience and no crippling higher education debt… they are also not earning much more than $50K per year. I’m willing to grant a little leeway in the salary as my colleagues and I work in higher education… but still, undergraduate debt to earning potential is still abysmal.

      If the tables were turned, and we had a generation of kids who opted out of college, employers would have to rely on another measure. It’s not undergraduate degrees that are specifically getting people jobs, it’s the glut of undergraduate degrees that are giving employers and easy “shorthand” for hiring.

      And, forgive me, I’m an angry Gen Xer, so I have to say it’s the boomers that put us in this position and have made undergraduate degrees all but useless in the working world.

      I’m also tired of hearing all that crap about how higher education helps with critical thinking. We wouldn’t need to get into crippling debt if time was taken in K-12 to teach critical thinking, instead of teaching to standardized tests that measure nothing but a student’s ability to take a standardized test.

  16. Sal's Mom
    Sal's Mom says:

    Good article, but I can’t help feeling like it only addressed two-parent (and one high income), homeschooled kids – my daughter is going to public school, I work (not to forge ahead in the feminist movement, to pay for our life), and even if I wanted to, I don’t have time or funds to do the homeschooling.
    I’d like to think that all of the above is possible for ANY kid coming out of this generation, and not just kids who receive one certain type of education or have one certain type of family.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Well, my kids go to public school too. But I still feel that they have an alternative education. I take them out of school for music lessons, I help them raise animals on the farm, and they each have small businesses to earn money instead of an allowance. It’s not homeschooling, but these are examples of me making sure they have the sort of alternative education I think they will need to become adults in their world. The reason I wrote this piece is so we could start having a discussion about alternative ways of learning/schooling. I don’t think any of us is so limited that we cannot be part of the discussion.


      • KateNonymous
        KateNonymous says:

        My mother did this, too. She took us out of school to go to plays, or hear important speakers, or travel to different places around the world (my dad was involved in that, too). When we weren’t in school, she planned history-themed family vacations, took us and the neighbor kids to see Congress in session and meet our representatives, etc. She always made it clear that school was important, but not the only way to learn.

        This is why I like to say that I was public-schooled and home-schooled.

  17. Bob Braxton
    Bob Braxton says:

    My male grandparents got to go through sixth grade, my parents through eleventh grade (which was all public school had then) and I missed Baby Boom by two years (early) and graduated from college (philosophy) and went to professional school in theology training for Christian ministry, then worked my career in computers, trained on the job and learned to do what was required, trained or not. I look forward positively to my grandchild Gen Z and life ahead.

  18. Cathy0
    Cathy0 says:

    Not convinced. Too many biases here (as mentioned, white, middle class etc) but also ethnocentric. It’s a big world out there beyond America’s borders. Not every culture views homeschooling as such a viable option as (apparently) lots of Americans do. And not every education system is ‘broken’, or distrusted – in many places quite the opposite.

  19. Mel
    Mel says:

    As a psychologist and Gen Xer who is home educating six children, I wholeheartedly agree with your predictions! I am dismayed by the ignorance and prejudice in regards to homeschooling evidenced by some of your commenters, however.

    It’s a myth that homeschoolers don’t have social skills, unless you’re talking about being socialized the way most public school teens are. Most homeschoolers are woefully inadequate when it comes to drinking, drugging, and sleeping their way through their high school education. Of course, they also haven’t learned how to have no regard for their education or the adults who to try to give them one. And when it comes to continuing to exhibit these social skills in college, I’m willing to bet they won’t. Tsk, tsk.

    As far as homeschoolers not being educated, you can’t mean test scores as they test four grade levels ahead of public school students. And of course you can’t mean that they can’t compete, as they tend to dominate every kind of academic competition. So you must mean that they aren’t indoctrinated to be unquestioning minions of the state. No, they just aren’t educated that way. What a pity that they aren’t taught what to think, but how.

  20. DJBKT
    DJBKT says:

    As a teacher, I’ve found that in the public schools I teach there is about a 5-10 year lag when it comes to consumer tech v. technoloogy in education. It is always a pleasure to teach kids with the latest technology, but there are inevitable frustrations caused by board policys, internet filters, etc. It is my hope that Gen Z takes a more open minded approach to technology, and that they take advantage of the few teachers who try to teach with technology while they can.

  21. Mel
    Mel says:

    Homeschooling is NOT expensive and it’s not exclusive to whites. The latest research suggests that the amount of money homeschooling parents spend to educate their children makes no appreciable difference in achievement. This isn’t surprising as despite the billions we have spent on public education, we haven’t realized a return on our investment. Please educate yourself about homeschooling before you make silly comments like “homeschooling is expensive.” It isn’t.

    • Erin McJ
      Erin McJ says:

      I presume the cost mentioned above is not the cost of supplies, but the opportunity cost of one parent forgoing paid work. It is very difficult for many families to afford housing on one salary.

      • Mel
        Mel says:

        It’s very challenging for many families to live on one income. Not everyone can do it, but many are willing to make the sacrifice. Many homeschooling families start family businesses or adjust their work schedules to maintain an adequate income. Loss of income notwithstanding, homeschooling is the least expensive and most cost-effective education there is.

  22. Greg Netland
    Greg Netland says:

    “because the way the generation thinks helps us to understand and explain historical action. And maybe predict future action.”

    This could not be more true, I’m looking for a Tun Tsu quote to match the sentiment, but can not think of it right now. Great post.

  23. Randi Sandlin
    Randi Sandlin says:

    This is one of your most brilliant articles. We can’t be sure what the format will be for sure – probably some form of integrated learning experiences. But one thing is sure we will not be teaching through memorization and that is fantastic. We need innovative problem solvers who collaborate quickly and meaningfully to get answers. More than likely – the kids are way ahead of us and will have it all figured out by the time they reach 18.

  24. Libby McCullough
    Libby McCullough says:

    I’m on the edge of the Baby boom, so I’m very competitive, and value college, however I’ve seen how much of my career has not taken off, so I’m back getting a tech certificate because my BA and MA did not land the salary needed for retirement. I am one of those who have 2 gen z kids. Both have IEP’s so I know the education system is broken, that every day kids with labels under IDEA are not getting a FAPE, so no one can really claim with absolute certainty that the education system is not broken. I have to be one of those tough Baby Boomers who are sick and tired of the establishment hurting kids and neglecting those who cannot afford private school or have the single moms who can’t afford to home school. So, I’m the Boomer who wants to go to law school and effect some policy change.. I know a dreamer, but someone’s gotta say and and do it. Denial of FAPE is everywhere. The parents with the perfect world who’s children fit in just right have NO idea what is going on. Children in Georgia have been killed in their GNET schools, have come home w/ bruises and had been locked in rooms. Children with Autism get put in the GNETs because Georgia schools do not understand sensory issues or how to work with Autism. Most parents could not afford Due Process. That is reality. Hopefully gen z will rise above it.

    • Lisa Z
      Lisa Z says:

      Thank you for any work you do with advocating for kids with special needs. As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, I find your comments about Georgia schools extremely disturbing. And it makes me even more thankful for the work our schools in Minnesota do, though it is getting increasingly difficult to do it because of massive cuts to education every year.

      BTW, just for the sake of commenting in general–I am a Gen X’er married to a Boomer raising two Gen Z’ers. DS14 is on the autism spectrum, more of an Aspie with extremely high intelligence and very low social skills. He goes to the nearby public middle school in the mornings and comes home before lunch to unschool/homeschool (his only home curriculum is Algebra, currently). DD12 is in a nearby private school that is excellent for her both academically and socially. We have done all of the possibilities I can think of: homeschool/unschool, public schools, and now private school, and even a combination of two at a time. I am making it work for us.

      My husband is a 20-year public school teacher, and yes as a Boomer he probably got into his field when the education system and jobs with tenure, pension and benefits were at their peak in the U.S. (We now have to worry dearly about that pension, however, not to mention job security since he is a music teacher and that may someday not be considered a “basic”.)

      I have chosen and been able to stay home with my kids by living a very simple life. We are not too far above the level where we would qualify for many forms of government assistance, but we make it work. We choose to live in a small city where housing is basically affordable, and we make many choices (which would be considered sacrifices to those who really care about living the standard American lifestyle) so that we can live on one income. We’re focused on making a life more than a living. I know this is not or desirable for everyone, but it is surely possible for more people than those who choose it.

  25. Petra
    Petra says:

    Very interesting article, and as many of your articles about college and education it views a college and university education not as something to be desirerd but as something which stops you to become what you want to become. Yes, it is possibke nowadays to acquire a lot of information from books, internet and many wonderful resources, which are available. Depending on your goals in life, this can be the perfect path to take. Just stop a moment and consider that many people do not want to become entrepreneurs, own their own business or want to spend their life organizing and selling. Many want to pursue a different path, become engineers, scientists, mathematicians, technicians, nurses or doctors. All these professions require the student to learn, sit down and spend hours and days to graps new concepts and learn many things where he/she does not immediately see the
    benefit. And a broad knowledge base required for all these professions is not acquired by self-guided study through online resources, or by learning through experience and hands-on examples. A good teacher/professor is an incredible resource to advance human knowledge, don’t dismiss this so easily.

    • Mel
      Mel says:

      That’s what I thought my education was going to be. I thought I would learn how to be a psychologist from real teachers. In fact, I learned very little over the course of 9 years of college and graduate school from my professors. Most of my grad school profs were interested in using their grad students as slave labor so they could get more research published, not in teaching. I learned everything valuable from practicing and studying on my own. Most education is self-education.

  26. Libby McCullough
    Libby McCullough says:

    What I meant was I am a dreamer. “We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams.” Wonka.. but seriously, I’m ready to do something also. Unless we get rid of the unions that are choking out education, and keep filing complaints, nothing is going to change. Competition would also work. They don’t have enough competition, and they only allow you to sue when they want you to be able to do so.

  27. Petra
    Petra says:

    yes, indeed there are poor teachers out there, unfortunately. But a good teacher will not take away the work everybody needs to do in reading and thinking, and learning how to acquire knowledge. However, teachers and professors inspire and provide a framework which allows the student to learn. It is not a teachers responsibility to feed the pupil every scrap of knowledge, if you leave school, college, university and know how to learn and put what you learned into perspective your education was quite successful. I agree, there are bad examples out there, but this does not mean that a college or university education is useless. It all depends on what you want to do: if you want to build bridges learning your profession as a civil engineer is highly recommended, and learning on the job is not going to give you the required expertise. And in many professions and jobs emotional intelligence is critical and of prime importance, for example, to lead a group successfully and interact well.This is not the case in technical professions where technical expertise should be more important to success in the workplace. Just wanted to throw in a few thoughts from the side of sience and engineering to stress that many of the general statements made here are situation dependent.

  28. Kate
    Kate says:

    Thanks for the reads, but I’m going to unsubscribe. Why this post, when I didn’t do it all the other times? I’m just really tired of you making generalizations. You like labels and boxes for people and behaviors. Life isn’t that simple. You think every single study that shows a 51% lean means it’s always true. You think every statement applies to everyone. Not for me, no more generalizations, no more nice neat little labels, x is this, y is this. I prefer to treat people like the individuals that they are. Goodbye, best of luck to you.

  29. emily
    emily says:

    Good subject; demo-centric treatment.
    Homeschooling implies educated parents, and having access to a support system; don’t you think?
    Have you been to a working class neighborhood? People that are working to survive, to put food on the table, not for ‘self-actualization’ or whatever the term is.

    India, Brazil, and China will eat our lunch. And all of your gen z kids (I’m not having children, thankyouverymuch) will be working as peasants for a non-white conglomerate.

    PS – Nice picture, by the way.

  30. davednh
    davednh says:

    I feel for he kids that are born from 2011+ when we have run out of letters and don’t know what to call them anymore. I wonder if we’ll have to stop categorizing.

  31. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I think all the generations will revolutionize the education system in one way or another. It’s happening in the formative years of learning for Gen Z; the parents, teachers, and others charged with teaching Gen Z, and each and everybody else that either needs to go back to school or stay current in a given field.
    Economics and global competition will make it necessary. I see many people here in the comment section taking sides for either formal schooling (public or private) or homeschooling. I think either one or a combination of both is acceptable. However, I also think it’s important for a student to be tested on a regular basis and demonstrate necessary skills.

  32. Nathan Fultz
    Nathan Fultz says:

    I am still digesting this after reading it twice. Frustrated, amazed, and as a parent of 6 little freaked out.

    Aside from that, I am drawn to this post and want more information. Going to read it again and explore all the links…

    Damn you Penelope. :)

  33. Jeri
    Jeri says:

    Well….I homeshcooled my kids for all and more of the reasons you outlined and NOT for either religious or as my kids used to call the uber-hippies “homey-schoolers”.
    Even though we were in a fringe kinda thing, we didn’t really fit in with any of them, we didn’t follow a curriculum, it was purely child led. They became proficient at the library, research and drilling down on a subject.

    I saw the school system even then as not much more than a holding tank, with little to no creativity or fostering learning for the love of it. PLEASE don’t get even get me started on the lack of the “arts”; music and all the arts were non-negotiable and as important as the 3 R’s for us.

    As for university, they’ve all done it differently and to various degrees. For some things our higher educational system is fabulous and there’s no replacing it, we’re blessed to have it as a choice.

    My kids are now finally understanding and able to express how much they appreciated the choices we made. Many times it was tough for them, particularly when the most common questions asked where “what grade you’re in” or “where do you go to school” or “why aren’t you in school today?”

    I don’t usually comment on posts, but this was tailor made for our family’s experience ~ my kids are already on the other side of this new type of education.

    Thanks for explaining in black and white what we did! I’m sending this link to my kids (They’re 30, 26 and 24) and as you’ve said, they’re all extremely independent, confident and most definitely working for the love of what they do.

    BTW ~ the picture of you’re little one all dressed up could have been pulled out of our photo album …kindred spirits….Brought a huge smile and fond memory to my heart.

    PS I had a very upwardly mobile professional career & I have absolutely no regrets on the choice I made. :-)

  34. Sam
    Sam says:

    Penelope- In the first sentence of the 3rd section, you say “the homeschooling movement will prepare Generation Y to skip college”– I believe you mean Generation X. Just letting you know so others won’t be confused.

    Very interesting post!

  35. Clare
    Clare says:

    I think we’re already seeing 3 in the UK. With high tuition fees, high student debt, and fewer paid grad-level jobs (due in part to the scourge of unpaid internships) many are questioning whether a degree is worth the debt.

  36. chris Keller
    chris Keller says:

    I home-schooled 4 of my 5 kids, limited to primary grades.

    I agree with the respondent who said that getting a job is NOT the end-game. Having a “liberal education” is the end-game, to me. Communications skills. Critical thinking. Problem-solving. Aesthetic response. Global responsibility. Ethical decision-making. Computational skills. The drive to look-it-up or google it, which leads to a questioning, then researching EVERYTHING.

    In classical thought, logic would be added to the above list of liberal education topics. Maybe “analysis” is the new name for logic?

    Alverno College and UW-Madison have a long history of education for the above-mentioned competencies. I myself have 2 degrees from Alverno. And a Masters which did not advance my career.

    I agree that you need motivated, confident and well-educated parents to home-school their children effectively. The qualifying events for those parents come from a dedication to being a life-long learner. Again, speaking of Wisconsin (and next-door in Minnesota), we have a superb public radio program that is/was partly state-funded, which can turn you into a life-long learner or fulfill your sense of curiosity, which is a pre-requisite to EVERYTHING were are discussing here.

    Honoring and fostering kids curiosity leads to thinking outside the box, creativity and innovation later on (when you are ready for the job market).

    Sports and athleticism is everywhere these days–it wasn’t so a few years back. Sports need not be associated with school.
    But I think athleticism contributes to a well-rounded individual. Without it, you may be entirely in your head. With some athletic training, you move between your head and the rest of yourself, literally putting thoughts into action.

    Lastly, some kind of spiritual or ethical orientation which has to be fostered–it isn’t automatic. Altruism/ethics/spirituality is an important element of being a whole person . . .

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Here’s why I think getting a job is the end game. Because if you teach a kid to read Plato and do math but the kid can’t get a job then their self-esteem will be killed. People want to contribute to society as adults, and in that way, each of us has a job. The job can be raising kids, the job can be building a house, it can be anything, but we each want to contribute to the community in a way that we feel the community values us. It’s part of the inherently social nature of being human.

      So the idea that we only have to teach people to think is a cop-out to me. We also have to teach people how to find their passions, work in groups, know how to steer themselves.

      Asperger Syndrome is a disability because it is not enough to be a genius. It is important to be able to be useful and participate in projects greater than yourself. I think the end game is to find a job for yourself where you contribute to the community and the community values you.


      • Pirate Jo
        Pirate Jo says:

        This is why I feel so much sympathy for Generation Y right now. They spend a fortune on college, only to step out into a world that says, “We don’t need you.” It’s even worse now than it was in 1992 when I got out of college. Not being able to find a job makes a person feel like a surplus human.

      • RandyS
        RandyS says:

        Wow, I disagree strongly with the notion that people are driven nowadays to find their value as a person in their contribution to society or, for that matter, much of anything larger than themselves. In my brief time as a high school teacher, my biggest and saddest shock was realizing just how little any of my 15-16 year old charges thought or cared about anyone other than themselves. Their friendships were largely shallow and they did not embrace any concept of “community” that wouldn’t more accurately be called tribalism. And when I thought about these self-centered, unempathetic kids, I realized, hey, this is what we’re teaching them. Our entire society is retreating from the concept of nation, community, neighborhood into family and tribe. If people do even identify with strangers, it is only in the most superficial ways and rarely translates into any sense of shared sacrifice or any concept of helping one another.

        So no, I don’t think people are seeking to find value in themselves by contributing to the community. They are looking to enrich and aggrandize themselves as much as possible with as little effort as possible. I agree that failing to earn a living kills self-esteem, but it’s sure not because people feel they’ve let society down.

  37. Suzanne
    Suzanne says:

    I am a babyboomer/x/y/z…I have given my kids tons of tutoring, homeschooled, and would rather invest money for them than pay for college. Do I have generational identity confusion? Oh, and I have worked for myself since graduating college, learning more outside of college than inside…go figure? (ahhh, but it was SO much cheaper/more affordable then…)

    Lastly – homeschool socialization question: when the ratio of children to adults is 1 adult to under 5 kids, kids model adult behavior…when over 5 kids, (i.e. in class of 20 – 30) kids model peer behavior…ponder the difference between “being socialized” i.e. the small group and “socializing” via the large group and basically what we do at parties…

    love the article…

  38. J. E.
    J. E. says:

    I honestly don’t think homeschooling could ever totally replace going to a public or private school. Sadly there are those parents (rich and poor) who like the fact that their kids are gone. They don’t care what they’re learning or not learning, just that they’re out of their hair for those hours during the week. Also as stated above, to have effective homeschooling you need parents who are educated and dedicated. What about parents who went through a bad school system themselves and don’t have much of an education? What if the parents (or sometimes just parent as in single parent) who didn’t even finish high school? Are they going to be able to effectively educate their children? Even an educated single parent is short on the time needed to homeschool. Sometimes the “bad” public schools get that way because of a lack of parental involvement. Plus the kids at some of these schools are dealing with more issues at age 9 than I’ve had deal with as a 31 year old. I still see a need for public schools, but yes the system will have to be overhauled to be more effective. Perhaps allowing more of the freedoms of homeschooling and self directedness into public schools, but that won’t happen until the emphasis is off of standardized testing. I think basing everything on standardized tests is one of the biggest problems of public schools. They’re too scared to deviate from what’s on those tests so they just drill on those subjects neglecting others. It would be nice of everyone could afford a great private school or have the luxury of time, education, and money to be able to take time off to homeschool effectively, but that’s simply not the case for everyone. Will private and homeschooling become luxuries the wealthy can afford (thus giving an edge to the children of more affluent homes) with public education becoming a babysitter/holding cell for the children from poorer families? This also has an effect on how higher education is viewed within the family? Is it a key to a better life? Less so as we’ve seen these days, but often without it difficult to get a foot in the door of higher paying careers. This brings up lots of questions, but also like the dialogue it presents to get people thinking about how we view education-at least in this country.

    • Randy
      Randy says:

      I tend to agree with what you’ve written, J.E.

      We are unschoolers. My wife is able to stay at home and wants to do this. She has a Phd and 2 masters degrees. There is a huge financial cost to keeping my wife off the labor market for the years of schooling. But, what the hell, there’s a huge cost to having kids at all, and I don’t expect to make a profit on them. That said, I do agree that homeschooling will not and should not end public education or private schools.

      We know families who don’t feel competent to do any sort of education at home. We also know parents who have identities staked firmly in their careers and they are not interested in homeschooling.

      And one of my own main misgivings about public schools, at least at the k-12 level, is that teachers are having to teach kids to standards. This seems to me to be an attempt to mould the standard kid into some sort of standard industrial widget of the type that can be easily replaced with some other widget. I know teachers who have bailed out of education because it not only dehumanizes kids, it dehumanizes teachers.

      So, I don’t think the problem is really so much a few bad public schools or a few bad teachers. I think there are problems with the central values of our educational systems and a complete overhaul would be helpful.

    • Christy
      Christy says:

      I must disagree with in on your statement of parents needing to be educated in order to instruct their children. Neither my husband, nor I have much education above a high school education, yet we feel completely confident in being able to fully teach our children through high school. We both have the determination, common sense and brains to know how and where to look for information to pass along to our children and also teach them how to find information and use discernment in the authenticity of that information. Recently (maybe in the last 2 years) there was a study published that showed that there was no outcome difference of significance between home school parents with advanced degrees and home school parents with a GED in the successfulness of their home schooled children.

  39. Terri
    Terri says:

    Excellent synopsis “Baby boomers changed politics, Gen X changed family, Gen Y changed work, and Gen Z will change education.” When you look back…each generation has made tremendous contributions. Our education system could benefit so much by change. Rock on Generation Z!

  40. Ina
    Ina says:

    I want to see how home-schooling parents are going to teach Mandarin to their kids. With a Rosetta Stone?

  41. Wooden U. Lykteneau
    Wooden U. Lykteneau says:

    Can any of the home-school advocates point us towards something other than their opinions and anecdotal evidence to support their claims? You know… academic, peer-reviewed research that’s been published and can be found in more than one library?

    • Mel
      Mel says:

      This kind of response is exactly why I didn’t waste my time posting a link to a number of what you would consider “peer-reviewed” journals (aka public education journals). You aren’t truly interested; you just want to put homeschooling and its advocates down. If you’re really interested in the research, you’ll look it up yourself. Are you familiar with Google?

      • Wooden U. Lykteneau
        Wooden U. Lykteneau says:

        I didn’t invent the term nor its standards — it’s called social science — and I elicited precisely the response I expected, which is that you’re not willing to discuss the research that either won’t support your position, or will demonstrate the self-selection bias that severely skews these results. Advocate all you like, but don’t pretend you’re not biased or that you don’t have an axe to grind because “the system” is set up against you.

      • Mel
        Mel says:

        Ah, you must mean the social sciences that I have a Ph. D. In and the journals I have published in. Fortunately, there’s no selection bias or axes to grind there. What’s scary is that you really believe that. Actually, I didn’t say I wasn’t willing to discuss the research. I said I wasn’t willing to link you to the studies so you could say they were biased or flawed if favorable toward homeschooling or right on if they weren’t favorable. Speaking of bias and axes to grind. I honestly haven’t read any studies that suggested homeschooling wasn’t effective. Please post them here if you find them so I can criticize their method, sampling and analyses.

  42. Tiffany S.
    Tiffany S. says:

    The comments of this post are more interesting than the actual post. Lots of great information and snarky remarks. Keep it up!

  43. J. E.
    J. E. says:

    I have to also add that teachers and schools used to be there to do just that-teach. Now they’re also being expected to not only teach the children, but raise them as well. Six and a half hours, five days a week in the classroom is not going to make up for absent parents and a bad home life, but that seems to be the assumption by some. Academic education was seen as the job of the teacher while instilling morals and values was seen as being the responsibility of the parent(s). Now in addition to having to teach very specific content to meet the expectations of standardized testing, teachers are also looked at to be surrogate parents. The demands put on teachers in the public system (and probaby private too) are much more than they used to be. Again, in an ideal world every child would have a good support system at home so that teachers could concentrate on teaching, but that’s not the case. Those that have the luxury to lead the revolution in education will have to consider that they will be leading that revolution not only for themselves and their children, but for children who may come from very different backgrounds than they do. I’m all for overhauling the current public system, but those doing the overhaul will have to realize that it can’t be tailored to their experiences and expectations alone.

  44. KateNonymous
    KateNonymous says:

    Penelope, is it Generation Z that is going to transform education? Or is it their parents?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      That’s interesting. Good point. I guess it’s Gen X ers who are transforming education but I have a feeling that Gen Y will continue that transformation at work — which will make that transformation ripple beyond just the homeschooling years.


      • cowgirl
        cowgirl says:

        A good deal of it is from the parents. I am a tail-end Baby Boomer. My son was born in 1993. He went to both private and public schools until the sixth grade at which time I pulled him out and homeschooled him (while working 60 hours a week) from sixth grade until he graduated from high school in April 2012. I live in the SF Bay Area – DO NOT GET ME STARTED ON THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM especially in California. It is welfare for the people who are employed by it. No results are required – just show up and sit in front of the class and be indoctrinated into condoms, homosexual marriage and communism. My son challenged and passed the entrance exams to the JC nearby us in his Junior year in high school and started college level classes his Senior Year along with finishing high school, competing statewide in HIgh School Rodeo/Junior Rodeo, showing pigs/livestock for 4-H,volunteering for the local pet shelter and his youth group at church. He also competed in debate teams with an emphasis in US History and Biblical History. He is now in horse shoeing school for 8 weeks to start his own business to make enough money to get through UC Davis and become a large animal vet. If you really love your kids you will not send them to public schools.

        • Jennifer Shay
          Jennifer Shay says:

          I suppose what you are saying is that you left your child home alone all day while you went to work your 6o hours per week? Sorry, but I’m having a LOT of trouble believing that you single-handedly homeschooled while working 60 hours per week.

          I love my son. I cannot afford to quit my job, and neither can my husband. We cannot afford private school, and we cannot count on getting into a charter school. We cannot, in good conscience, leave him to his own devices (I was a latchkey kid, and it was a lonely experience.) We have few options.

          It is harsh and cruel of you to say that loving our child is directly correlated with the type of education we are stuck with due to our circumstances.

  45. Lyean
    Lyean says:

    I agree with J.E. Even though students spent almost half of the day in the school, it is still in the home that these kids learn their values. I school,teachers are perceived to be the second parents of the students.But let us remember that the real parents, the family as a whole is where the child learns/develops his values & his character as well.

  46. Varun
    Varun says:

    why has no one pointed out that your kid is a badass? autobots, superman, AND a sword?! NICE!!

    im bringing back that unapologetic creativity to whatever i do from now on. fantastic picture.

    as far as education is concerned, it’s the latest bubble that will pop. the future will be kids who take english at Stanford, math at MIT, entrepreneurship at the Univ. of Houston, etc., all at their convenience. it will be less homeschooling and more whenever/wherever-schooling. the authoritarian, industrial age education system is dying. to be successful, one must drop the hyperspecialization of the past and become a renaissance stucent of the future. we’ve entered the conceptual age, and few people see that.

  47. Lyssa
    Lyssa says:

    Penelope, I agree with your article. I am a product of the homeschooling movement, and I can vouch for the presence of families with high income, low income, various ethnic backgrounds, single parent or two parent households, etc. From my experience homeschooling was not something only for the white and wealthy; a family would often have to make sacrifices to keep their children at home, but those who did so considered it worth their pains.

    Yes, there can be problems with socialization, but no more so for homeschooled children than for those in public or private schools! There are shy or antisocial people everywhere; the vast majority of homeschooled families I have met were involved not only in sports, dance, the arts, and so on, but also had a widespread community that enabled them to network in order to pursue areas of interest in both career and educational fields.

    I attended public school briefly to see what it was like. Now I have a part-time job teaching a music class for a public school. It is apparent that many of the children I see (but I am not saying all) are unable to thrive in the school environment they are placed in every day. Shouldn't we want the best possible educational opportunities for our children? They need a place where they do not just squeak by or learn the bare essentials. This is a waste of their precious time that they should be using to blossom into the amazing human beings that they are meant to be. If school, public or private, is allowing your child to truly thrive as a growing person, then by all means, let them be educated in that environment! But if a child is not thriving, then something must be changed.

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