Toffler, Alvin. Future Shock. New York: Bantam, 1971. pp. 398-427

Chapter 18: Education in the Future Tense

In the quickening race to put men and machines on the planets,. tremendous resources are devoted to making possible a "Soft landing.' Every sub-system of the landing craft is exquisitely designed to withstand the shock of arrival. Armies of engineers, geologists, physicists, metallurgists and other specialists concentrate years of work on the problem of landing impact. Failure of any sub-system to function after touch-down could destroy human lives, not to mention billions of dollars worth of apparatus and tens of thousands of man-years of labor.

Today one billion human beings, the total population of the technology-rich nations, are speeding toward a rendezvous with super-industrialism. Must we experience mass future shock? Or can we, too, achieve a "soft landing?" We are rapidly accelerating our approach. The craggy outlines of the new society are emerging from the mists of tomorrow. Yet even as we speed closer, evidence mounts that one of our most critical sub-systems--education--is dangerously malfunctioning.

What passes for education today, even in our "best" schools and colleges, is a hopeless anachronism. Parents look to education to fit their children for life in the future. Teachers 'warn that lack of an education will cripple a child's chances in the world of tomorrow. Government ministries, churches, the mass media--all exhort young people to stay in school, insisting that now, as never before, one's future is almost wholly dependent upon education.

Yet for all this rhetoric about the future, our schools face backward toward a dying system, rather than forward to the emerging new society. Their vast energies are applied to cranking out Industrial Men--people tooled for survival in a system that will be dead before they are.

To help avert future shock, we must create a superindustrial education system. And to do this, we must search for our objectives and methods in the future, rather than the past.


Every society has its own characteristic attitude toward past, present and future. This time-bias, formed in response to the rate of change, is one of the least noticed, yet most powerful determinants of social behavior, and it is clearly reflected in the way the society prepares its young for adulthood.

In stagnant societies, the past crept forward into the present and repeated itself in the future. In such a society, the most sensible way to prepare a child was to arm him with the skills of the past-for these were precisely the same skills he would need in the future. "With the ancient is wisdom," the Bible admonished.

Thus father handed down to son all sorts of practical techniques along with a clearly defined, highly traditional set of values. Knowledge was transmitted,, not by specialists concentrated in schools, but through the family, religious institutions, and apprenticeships. Leamer and teacher were dispeysed throughout the entire community. The key to the system, however, was its absolute devotion to yesterday. The curriculum of the past was the past.

The mechanical age smashed all this, for industrialism required a new kind of man. It demanded skills that neither family nor church could, by themselves, provide. It forced an upheaval in the value system. Above all, it required that man develop a new sense of time.

Mass education was the ingenious machine constructed by industrialism to produce the kind of adults it needed. The problem was inordinately complex. How to pre-adapt children for a new world--a world of repetitive indoor toil, smoke, noise, machines, crowded living conditions, collective discipline, a world in which time was to be regulated not by the cycle of sun and moon, but by the factory whistle and the clock.

The solution was an educational system that, in its very structure, simulated this new world. This system did not emerge instantly. Even today it retains throwback elements from pre-industrial society. Yet the whole Idea of assembling masses of students (raw material) to be processed by teachers (workers) in a centrally located school (factory) was a stroke of industrial genius. The whole administrative hierarchy of education, as it grew up, followed the model of industrial bureaucracy. The very organization of knowledge into permanent disciplines was grounded on industrial assumptions. Children marched from place to place and sat in assigned stations. Bells rang to announce changes of time.

The inner life of the school thus became an anticipatory mirror, a perfect introduction to industrial society. The most criticized features of education today--the regimentation, lack of individualization, the rigid systems of seating, grouping, grading and marking, the authoritarian role of the teacher--are precisely those that made mass public education so effective an instrument of adaptation for its place and time.

Young people passing through this educational machine emerged into an adult society whose structqre of jobs, roles and institutions resembled that of the school itself. The schoolchild did not simply learn facts that he could use later on; he lived, as well as learned, a way of life modeled after the one d lead in the future.

The schools, for example, subtly instilled the new time-bias made necessary by industrialism. Faced with conditions that had never before existed, men had to devote increasing energy to understanding the present. Thus the focus of education itself began to shift, ever so slowly, away from the past and toward the present.

The historic struggle waged by John Dewey and his followers to introduce "progressive" measures into American education was, in part, a desperate effort to alter the old time-bias. Dewey baffled against the past-orientation of traditional education, trying to, refocus education on the here-and-now. "The way out of scholastic systems that make the past an end in itself," he declared, "is to make acquaintance with the past a means of understanding the present."

Nevertheless, decades later traditionalists like. Jacques Marifain and neo-Aristotelians like Robert Hutchins still lashed out against anyone who attempted to shift the balance in favor of the present. Hutchinson, former president of the University of Chicago and now head of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, accused educators who wanted their students to learn about modem society of being members of a "cult of immediacy." The progressives were accused of a dastardly crime: "presentism."

Echoes of this conflict over the time-bias persist even now, in the writings, for example, of Jacques Barzun, who insists that 'It is . . . absurd to try edueating 'for' a present day that defies definition." Thus our education systems had not yet fully adapted themselves to the industrial age when the need for a new revolution--the superindustrial revolution--burst upon them. And just as the progressives of yesterday were accused of "presentism," it is likely that the education reformers of tomorrow will be accused of "futurism.' For we shall find that a truly superindustrial education is only possible if we once more shift our time-bias forward.


In the technological systems of tomorrow--fast, fluid and self-regulating--machines will deal with the flow of physical materials; men with the flow of information and insight. Machines will increasingly perform the routine tasks; men the intellectual and creative tasks. Machines and men both, instead of being concentrated in gigantic factories and factory cities, will be scattered across the globe, linked together by amazingly sensitive, near-instantaneous communications. Human work will move out of the factory and mass office into the community and the home.

Machines will be synchronized, as some already are, to the billionth of a second; men will be desynchronized. The factory whistle will vanish. Even the clock, "the key machine of the modem industrial age," as Lewis Mumford called it a generation ago, will lose some of its power over human, as distinct from purely technological, affairs. Simultaneously, the organizations needed to control technology will shift from bureaucracy to Ad-bocracy, from permanence to transience, and from a concern with the present to a focus on the future.

In such a world, the most valued attributes of the industrial era become handicaps. The technology of tomorrow requires not millions of lightly lettered men, ready to work in unison at endlessly repetitious jobs, it requires not men who take orders in unblinkiiig fashion, aware that the price of bread is mechanical submission to authority, but men who can make critical judgments, who can weave their way through novel environments, who are quick to spot new relationships in the rapidly changing reality. It requires men who, in C. P. Snow's compelling term, "have the future in their bones."

Finally, unless we capture control of the accelerative thrust--and there are few signs yet that we will--tomorrow's individual will have to cope with even more hectic change than we do today. For education the lesson is clear: its prime objective must be to increase the individuars "cope-ability"--the speed and economy with which he can adapt to continual change. And the faster the rate of change, the more attention must be devoted to discerning the pattern of future events.

It is no longer sufficient for Johnny to understand the past. It is not even enough for him, to understand the present, for the here-and-now environment will soon vanish. Johnny must learn to anticipate the directions and rate of change. He must, to put it technically, learn to make repeated, probabilistic, increasingly long-range assumptions about the future. And so must Johnny's teachers.

To create a super-industrial education, therefore, we shall first need to generate successive, alternative, images of the future--assumptions about the kinds of jobs, professions, and vocations that may be needed twenty to fifty years in the future; assumptions about the kind of family forms and human relationships that will prevail; the kinds of ethical and moral problems that will arise; the kind of technology that will surround us and the organizational structures with which we must mesh.

It is only by generating such assumptions, defining, debating, systematizing and continually updating them, that we can deduce the nature of the cognitive and affective skills that the people of tomorrow will need to survive the accelerative thrust. In the United States there are now two federally, funded "education policy research centers"--one at Syracuse University, another at Stanford Research Institute--charged with scanning the horizon with these purposes in mind. In Paris, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has recently created a division with similar responsibilities. A handful of people in the student movement have also begun to turn attention to the future. Yet these efforts are pitifully thin compared with the difficulty of shifting the time-bias of education. What is needed is nothing less than a future-responsive mass movement.

We must create a "Council of the Future" in every school and community: Teams of men and women devoted to probing the future in the interests of the present. By projecting "assumed futures," by defining coherent educational responses to them, by opening these alternatives to active public debate, such councils-similar in some ways to the "prognostic cells" advocated by Robert Jungk of the Techniscbe Hochschule in Berlin-could have a powerful impact on education.

Since no group holds a monopoly of insight into tomorrow, these councils must be democratic. Specialists are vitally needed in them. But Councils of the Future will not succeed if they are captured by professional educators, planners, or any unrepresentative elite. Thus students must be involved from the very start--and not merely as coopted rubber stamps for adult notions. Young people must help lead, if not, in fact, initiate, these councils so that "assumed futures" can be formulated and debated by those who will presumably invent and inhabit the future.

The council of the future movement offers a way out of the impasse in our schools and colleges. Trapped in an educational system intent on turning them into living anachronisms, today's students have every right to rebel. Yet attempts by student radicals to base a social program on a pastiche of nineteenth-century Marxism and early twentieth-century Freudianism have revealed them to be as resolutely chained to the past and present as their elders. The creation of future-oriented, future-shaping task forces in education could revolutionize the revolution of the young.

For those educators who recognize the bankruptcy of the present system, but remain uncertain about next, steps, the council movement could provide, purpose as well as power, through alliance with, rather than hostility toward, youth. And by attracting community and parental participation--businessmen, trade unionists, scientists, and others--the movement could build broad political support for the super-industrial revolution in education.

It would be a mistake to assume that the presentday educational system is unchanging. On the contrary, it is undergoing rapid change. But much of this change is no more than an attempt to refine the existent machinery, making it ever more efficient in pursuit of obsolete goals. The rest is a kind of Brownian motion, self-canceling, incoherent, directionless. What has been lacking is a consistent direction and a logical starting point.

The council movement could supply both. The direction is super-industrialism. The starting point: the future.


Such a movement will have to pursue three objectives--to transform the organizational structure of our educational system, to revolutionize its curriculum, and to encourage a more future-focused orientation. It must begin by asking root questions about the status quo. We have noted, for example, that the basic organization of the present school system parallels that of the factory. For generations, we have simply assumed that the proper place for education to occur is in a school. Yet if the new education is,to simulate the society of tomorrow, should it take-place in school at all?

As levels of education rise, more and more parents are intellectually equipped to assume some responsibilities now delegated to the schools. Near Santa Monica, California, where the RAND Corporation has its headquarters, in the research belt around Cambridge, Massachusetts, or in such science cities as Oak Ridge, Los Alamos or Huntsville, many parents are clearly more capable of teaching certain subjects to their children than are the teachers in the local schools. With the move toward knowledge-based industry and the increase of leisure, we can anticipate a small but significant tendency for highly educated parents to pull their children at least partway out of the public education system, offering them home instruction instead.

This trend will be sharply encouraged by improvements in computer-assisted education, electronic video recording, holography and other technical fields. Parents and students might sign short-term "learning contracts" with the nearby school, committing them to teach-learn certain courses or course modules. Students might continue going to school for social and athletic activities or for subjects they cannot learn on their own or under the tutelage of parents or family friends. Pressures in this direction will mount as the schools grow more anachronistic, and the courts win find themselves deluged with cases attacking the pres-. ent obsolete compulsory attendance laws. We may witness, in short, a limited dialectical swing back toward education in the home.

At Stanford, learning theorist Frederick J. McDonald has proposed a "mobile education" that takes the student out of the classroom not merely to observe but to participate in significant community activity.

In New York's Bedford-Stuyvesant District, a sprawling tension-ridden black slum, a planned experimental college would disperse its facilities throughout & stores, offices, and homes of a fortyfive-block area, making it difficult to tell where the college ends and the community begins. Students would be taught skills by adults in the community as well as by regular faculty. Curricula would be, shaped by student and community groups as well as professional educators. The former United States Commissioner of Education, Harold Howe, III, has also suggested the reverse: bringing the community into the school so that local stores, beauty parlors, printing shops, be given free space in the schools in return for free lessons by the adults who run them. This plan, designed for urban-ghetto schools, could be given more bite through a different conception of the nature of the enterprises invited into the school: computer service bureaus, for example, architectural offices, perhaps even medical laboratories, broadcasting stations and advertising agencies.

Elsewhere, discussion centers on the design of secondary and higher education programs that make use of "mentors" drawn from the adult population. Such mentors would not only transmit skills, but would show how the abstractions of the textbook are applied in life. Accountants, doctors, engineers, businessmen, carpenters, builders and planners might all become part of an "outside faculty" in another dialectical swing, this time toward a new kind of apprenticeship.

Many similar changes are in the wind. They point, however tentatively, to a long overdue breakdown of the factory-model school.

This dispersal in geographical and social space must be accompanied by dispersal in time. The rapid obsolescence of knowledge and the extension of life span make it clear that the skills learned in youth are unlikely to remain relevant by the time old age arrives. Super-industrial education must therefore make provision for life-long education on a plug-in/plug-out basis.

If learning is to be stretched over a lifetime, there is reduced justification for forcing kids to attend school full time. For many young people, part-time schooling and part-time work at low-skill, paid and unpaid community service tasks will prove more satisfying and educational.

Such innovations imply enormous changes in mistructional techniques as well. Today lectures still dominate the classroom. This method symbolizes the old top-down, hierarchical structure of industry. While still useful for limited purposes, lectures must inevitably give way to a whole battery of teaching techniques, ranging from role playing and gaming to computer-mediated seminars and the immersion of students in what we might call "contrived experiences." Experiential programming methods, drawn from recreation, entertainment and industry, developed by the psych-corps of tomorrow, will supplant the familiar, frequently brain-draining lecture. Learning may be maximized through the use of controlled nutrition or drugs to raise IQ, to accelerate reading, or to enhance awareness. Such changes and the technologies underlying them will facilitate basic change in the organizational pattern.

The present administrative structures of education, based on industrial bureaucracy, will simply not be able to cope with the complexities and rate of change inherent in the system just described. They win be forced to move toward ad-hocratic forms of organization merely to retain some semblance of control. More important, however, are the organizational implications for the classroom itself.

Industrial Man was machine-tooled by the schools to occupy a comparatively permanent slot the social and economic order. Super-industrial education must prepare people to function in temporary organizations--the Ad-hocracies of tomorrow.

Today children who enter school quickly find themselves part of a standard and basically unvarying organizational structure: a teacher-led class. One adult and a certain number of subordinate young people, usually seated in fixed rows facing front, is the standardized basic unit of the industrial-era school. As they move, grade by grade, to the higher levels, they remain in this same fixed organizational frame. They gain no experience with other forms of organization, or with the problems of shifting from one organizational form to another. They get no training for role versatility.

Nothing is more clearly anti-adaptive. Schools of the future, if they wish to facilitate adaptation later in life, will have to experiment with far more varied. arrangements. Classes with several teachers -and a single student; classes with several teachers and a group of students; students organized into temporary task forces and project teams; students shifting from group work to individual or independent work and back-all these and their permutations will need to be employed to, give the student some advance taste of the experience he will face later on when be begins to move through the impermanent organizational geography of super-industrialism.

Organizational goals for the Councils of the Future thus become clear: dispersal, decentralization, interpenetration with the community, ad-hocratic administration, a break-up of the rigid system of scheduling and grouping. When these objectives are accomplished, any organizational resemblance between education and the industrial-era factory will be purely coincidental.


As for curriculum, the Councils of the Future, instead of assuming that every subject taught today is taught for a reason, should begin from the reverse premise: nothing should be included in a required curriculum unless it can be strongly justified in terms of the future. If this means scrapping a substantial part of the formal curriculum, so be it.

This is not intended as an "anti-cultural" statement or a plea for total destruction of the past. Nor does it suggest that we can ignore such basics as reading, writing and math. What it does mean is that tens of millions of children today are forced by law to spend precious hours of their lives grinding away at material whose future utility is highly questionable. (Nobody, even claims it has much present utility.) Should they spend as much time as they do learning French, or Spanish or German? Are the hours spent on English maximally useful? Should all children be required to study algebra? Might they not benefit more from studying probability? Logic? Computer programming? Philosophy? Aesthetics? Mass communications?

Anyone who thinks the present curriculum makes sense is invited to explain to an intelligent fourteen-year-old why algebra or French or any other subject is essential for him. Adult answers are almost always evasive. The reason is simple: the present curriculum, is a mindless holdover from the past.

Why, for example, must teaching be organized around such fixed disciplines as English, economics, mathematics or biology? Why not around stages of the human life cycle: a course on birth, childhood, adolescence, marriage, career, retirement, death. Or around contemporary social problems? Or around significant technologies of the past and future? Or around-countless other imaginable alternatives?

The present curriculum and its division into airtight compartments is not based on any well thought-out conception of contemporary human needs. Still less is it based on any grasp of the future, any understanding of what skills Johnny will require to live in the hurricane's eye of change. It is based on inertia--and a bloody clash of academic guilds, each bent on aggrandizing its budget, pay scales and status.

This obsolete curriculum, furthermore, imposes standardization on the elementary and secondary schools. Youngsters are given little choice in determining what they wish to learn. Variations from school to school are minimal. The curriculum is nailed into place by' the rigid entrance requirements of the colleges, which,, in turn, reflect the vocational and social requirements of a vanishing society.

In fighting to update education, the prognostic cells of the revolution must set themselves up as curriculum review boards. Attempts by the present educational leadership to revise the physics curriculum, or improve the methods for teaching English or math are piecemeal at best. While it may be important to preserve aspects of the present curriculum and to introduce changes gradually, we need more than haphazard attempts to modernize. We need a systematic approach to the whole problem.

These revolutionary review groups must not, however, set out to design a single all-purpose, permanent new curriculum. Instead, they must invent sets of temporary curricula--along with procedures for evaluation and renovation as time goes by. There must be a systematic way to make curricular changes without necessarily triggering bloody intramural conflict each time.

A fight must also be waged to alter the balance between standardization and variety in the curriculum. Diversity carried to its extreme could produce a non-society in which the lack of common frames of reference would make communication between people even more difficult than it is today. Yet the dangers of social fragmentation cannot be met by maintaining a highly homogeneous education system while the rest of the society races toward heterogeneity.

One way to resolve the conflict between the need for variety and the need for common reference, points is to distinguish in education between "data," as it were, and "skills."


Society is differentiating. What is more, we shall neve no matter how refined our predictive tools become, be able to forecast the exact sequence of future states the society. In this situation, it makes eminent good sense to hedge our educational bets. Just as genetic diversity favors the survival of species, educational diversity increases the odds for the survival of societies.

Instead of a standardized elementary and secondary school curriculum in which all students are essentially exposed to the same data base--the same history, math, biology, literature, grammar, foreign languages, etc. The futurist movement in education must attempt to create widely diversified data offerings. Children should be permitted far greater choice than at present; they should be encouraged to taste a wide variety of short-term courses (perhaps two or three weeks in length) before making longer-term commitrnents. Each school should provide scores of optional subjects, all based on identifiable assumptions about future needs.

The range of subject matter should be broad enough so that apart from dealing with the "known" (i.e., highly probable) elements of the super-industrial future, some provision would be made for dealing with the unknown, the unexpected, the possible. We might do this by designing "contingency curricula"--educational programs aimed at training people to handle problems that not only do not exist now, but which may, in fact, never materialize. We need, for example, a wide range of specialists to cope with potentially calamitous, though perhaps unlikely, contingencies: back-contarnination of the earth from the planets or stars, the need to communicate with extraterrestrial life, monstrosities produced by genetic experimentation, etc.

Even now we should be training cadres of young people for life in submarine communities. Part of the next generation may well find itself living under the oceans. We should be taking groups of students out in submarines, teaching them to dive, introducing them to underwater housing materials, power requirements, the perils and promises involved in a human invasion of the oceans. And we should be doing this not merely witli graduate students, but with children drawn from elementary schools, even the nurseries.

Simultaneously, other young people should be in to the wonders of outer space, living with or near the astronauts, learning about planetary'environments, becoming as familiar with space technology as most teen-agers today are with that of the family car. Still others should be encouraged, not discouraged, from experimenting with communal and other family forms of the future. Such experimentation, under responsible supervision and constructively channeled, should be seen as part of an appropriate education, not as an interruption or negation of the learning process.

The principle of diversity will dictate fewer required courses, increasing choice among esoteric specialties. By moving in this direction and creating contingency curricula, the society can bank a wide range of skills, including some it may never have to use, but which it must have at its instant command in the'event our highest probability assumptions about the future turn out to be mistaken.

The result of such a policy will'be to produce far more individualized human beings, more differences among people, more varied ideas, political and social sub-systems, and more color.


Unfortunately, this necessary diversification of data offerings will deepen the problems of overchoice in our lives. Any program of diversification must therefore be accompanied by strong efforts to create common reference points among people through a unifying system of skills. While all students should not study the same course, imbibe the same facts, or store the same sets of data, all students should be grounded in certain common skills needed for human communication and social integration.

If we assume a continuing rise in transience, novelty and diversity, the nature of some of these behavioral skills becomes clear. A powerful case can be made, for example, that the people who must live,in'super-industrial societies will need new skills in three crucial areas: learning, relating and choosing.

Learning. Civen further acceleration, we can conclude that Imowledge miffl grow increasingly perisha-m,ble. Todays "fact* becomes tomorrow"s "misinformation." This is no argument against learning facts or data-far from it. But a society in which the individual constantly changes his job, his place of residence, his social ties and so forth, places an enormous premium on learning efficiency. TomorroVs schools must therefore teach not merely data, but ways to manipulate it. Students must learn how to discard old ideas, how and when to replace them. They must, in short, learn how' to learn.

Early computers consisted of a 'memory" or bank of data plus a "program" or set of instructions that told the machine bow to manipulate the data. Large late-generation computer systems not only store greater masses of data, but multiple programs, so that the operator can apply a variety of programs to the same data base. Such systems also require a "master program" that, in effect, tells the machine which program to apply and when. The multiplication of programs and addition of a master program vastly increased the power of the computer.

A similar strategy can be used to enhance human adaptability. By instructing students how to learn, unlearn and relearn, a powerful new dimension can be added to education.

Psychologist Herbert Cerjuoy of the Human Resources Research Organization phrases it simply: "The new education must teach the individual how to classify and reclassify information, how to evaluate its, veracity, how to change categories when necessary, hoW to move from the concrete to the abstract and back, bow to look at problems from a new direction--how to teach himself. Tomorrow's illiterate will not be the man Who cannot read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn."

Relating. We can also anticipate increasing difficulty in making, and maintaining rewarding human ties, if life pace continues its acceleration.

Listening intently to what young people are sayiug makes it clear that the once simple business of forging real friendships has already assumed new complexity for them. When students complain, for instance, that "people can't communicate," they are not simply referring to crossing the generational divide, but to problems they have among themselves as well. "New people in the last four days are all the ones that I remember," writes Rod McKuen, a songwriter and poet currently popular among the youth.

Once the transience factor is recognized as a cause of alienation, some of the superficially puzzling behavior of young people becomes comprehensible. Many of them, for example, regard sex as a quick way "to get to know someone." Instead of viewing sexual intercourse as something that follows a long process of relationship-building, they see it, rightly or not, as a shortcut to deeper human understanding.

The same wish to accelerate friendship helps explain their fascination with such psychological techniques as "sensitivity training," "T-grouping," "micro-labs," so-called "touchie-feelie" or non-verbal games, and the whole group dynamics phenomenon in general. Their enthusiasm for communal living, too, expresses the underlying sense of loneliness and inability to "open up" with others.

All these activities throw participants into intimate psychological contact without lengthy preparation, often without advance acquaintanceship. In many cases, the relationships are short-lived by design, the purpose of the game being to intensify affective relationships despite the temporariness of the situation.

By speeding the turnover of people in our lives, we allow less time for trust to develop, less time for friendships to ripen. Thus we witness a search for ways to cut through the polite "publie" behavior directly to the sharing of intimacy.

One may doubt the effectiveness of these experimental techniques for breaking down suspicion and reserve, but until the rate of human turnover is substantially slowed, education must help people to accept the absence of deep friendships, to accept loneliness and mistrust--or it must find new ways to accelerate friendship formation. Whether by more imaginative grouping of students, or by organizing new kinds of work-teams, or through variations of the techniques discussed above, education will have to teach us to relate.

Choosing. If we also assume that the shift toward super-industrialism will multiply the kinds and complexitties of decisions facing the individual, it become& apparent that education must address the issue of overchoice directly.

Adaptation involves the making of successive choices. Presented with numerous alternatives, an individual chooses the one most compatible with his values. As overchoice deepens, the person who lacks a clear grasp of his own values (whatever these may be) is progressively crippled. Yet the more crucial the question of values becomes, the less willing our present schools are to grapple with it. It is no wonder that millions of young people trace erratic pathways into the future, ricocheting this way and that like unguided missiles.

In pre-industrial societies, where values are relatively stable, there is little question about the right of the older generation to impose its values on the young. Education concerns itself as much with the inculcation of moral values as with the transmission of skills. Even during early industrialism, Herbert Spencer maintained that "Education has for its object the formation of character," which, freely translated, means the seduction or terrorization of the young into thevalue systems of the old. .

As the shock waves of the industrial revolution rattled the ancient architecture of values and new conditions demanded new values, educators backed off. As a reaction against clerical education, teaching facts and "letting the student make up his own mind" came to be regarded as a progressive virtue. Cultural relativism and an appearance of scientific neutrality displaced the insistence on traditional values. Education clung to the rhetoric of character formation, but, educators fled from the very idea of value inculcation, deluding themselves into believing that they were not in the value business at all.

Today it embarrasses many teachers to be reminded that all sorts of values are transmitted to students, if not by their textbooks then by the informal curriculum, seating arrangements, the school bell, age segregation, social class distinctions, the authority of the teacher, the very fact that students are in a school instead of the community itself. All such arrangements send unspoken messages to the student, shaping his attitudes and outlook. Yet the formal curriculum continues to be presented as though it were value-free. Ideas, events, and phenomena are stripped of all value implications, disembodied from moral reality.

Worse yet, students are seldom encouraged to analyze their own values and those of their teachers and peers. Millions pass through the education system without once having been forced to search out the contradictions in their own value systems, to probe their own life goals deeply, or even to discuss these matters candidly with adults and peers. Students hurry from class to class. Teachers and professors are harried and grow increasingly remote. Even the "bull session"--informal, extra-curricular discussions about sex, politics or religion that help participants identify and clarify their values--grow less frequent and less intimate as transience rises.

Nothing could be better calculated to produce people uncertain of their goals, people incapable of effective decision-making under conditions of overchoice. Super-industriaI educators must not attempt to impose a rigid set of values on the student; but they must systematically organize formal and informal activities .that help the student define, explicate and test his values, whatever they are. Our schools will continue to turn out industrial men until we teach young people the skills necessary to identify and clarify, if not reconcile, conflicts in their own value systems.

The curriculum of tomorrow must thus include not only an extremely wide range of data-oriented courses, but a strong emphasis on future-relevant behavioral skills. it must combine variety of factual content with universal training in what might be termed "life know-how." It must find ways to do both at the same time, transmitting one in circumstances or environments that produce the other.

In this way, by making definite assumptions about the future and designing organizational and curricular objectives based on them, the Councils of the Future can begin to shape a truly superindustrial education system. One final critical step remains, however. For it is not enough to refocus the system on the future. We must shift the time-bias of the individual as well.


Three hundred and fifty years after his death, scientists are still finding evidence to support Cervantes' succinct insight into adaptational psychology: "Forewarned fore-armed." Self-evident as it may seem, in most situations we can help individuals adapt better if we simply provide them with advance information about what lies ahead.

Studies of the reactions of astronauts, displaced families, and industrial workers almost uniformly point to this conclusion., "Anticipatory information " writes psychologist Hugh Bowen, "allows . . . a dramatic change in performance." Whether the problem is that of driving a car down a crowded street, piloting a plane, solving intellectual puzzles, playing a cello or dealing with interpersonal difficulties, performance im-proves when the individual knows what to- expect next.

The mental processing of advance data about any subject presumably cuts down on the amount of processing and the reaction time during the actual period of adaptation. It was Freud, I believe, who said, "Thought is action in rehearsal."

Even more important than any specific bits of advance information, however, is the habit of anticipalion. This conditioned ability to look ahead plays a key role in adaptation. Indeed, one of the hidden clues to successful coping may well lie in the individuars sense of the future. The people among us who keep up with change, who manage to adapt well, seem to have a richer, better developed sense of what lies ahead than those who cope poorly. Anticipating the future has become a habit with them. The chess player who anticipates the moves of his opponent, the executive who thinks in long range terms, the student who takes a quick glance at the table of contents before starting to read page one, all seem to fare better.

People vary widely in the amount of thought they devote to the future, as distinct from past and present. Some invest far more resources than others in projecting themselves forward-imagining, analyzing and evaluating future possibilities and probabilities. They also vary in how far they tend to project. Some habitually think in terms of the "deep future." Others penetrate only into the "shallow future."

We have, therefore, at least two dimensions of "futureness"--how much and how far. There is vidence that among normal teenagers maturation is accompanied by what sociologist Stephen L. Klineberg of Princeton describes -as "an increasing concern with distant future events." This suggests that people of different ages characteristically devote different amounts of attention to the future. Their "time horizons" may also differ. But age is not the only influence on our futureness. Cultural conditioning affects it and one of the most important cultural influences of all is the rate of change in the environment.

This is why the individuars sense of the future plays so critical a part in his ability to cope. The faster the pace of life, the more napidly the present environment slips away from us, the more rapidly do future potentialities turn into present reality. As the environment churns faster, we are not only pressured to devote more mental resources to thinking about the future, but to extend our time horizon--to probe further and further ahead. The driver dawdling along an expressway at twenty miles per hour can successfully negotiate a turn into an exit lane, even if the sign indicating the cutoff is very close to the exit. The faster he drives, however, the further back the sign must be placed to give him the time needed to read and react. In quite the same way, the generalized acceleration of life compels us to lengthen our time horizon or risk being overtaken and overwhelmed by events. The faster the environment changes, the more the need for futureness.

Some individuals, of course, project themselves so far into the future for such long periods that their anticipations become escapist fantasies. Far more common, however, are those individuals whose anticipations are so thin and short-range that they are continually surprised and flustered by change.

The adaptive individual appears to be able to project himself forward just the "right" distance in time, to examine and evaluate alternative courses of action open to him before the need for final decision, and to make tentative decisions beforehand.

Studies by social scientists like Lloyd Warner in the United States and Elliott Jaques in Britain, for, example, have shown how important this time element is in management decision-making. The man on the assembly line is given work that requires him to concem himself only with events close to him in time. The men who rise in management are expected, with each successive promotion, to concern themseves with events further in the future.

Sociologist Benjamin D. Singer of the University of Western Ontario, whose field is social psychiatry, has gone further. According to Singer, the future plays an enormous, largely unappreciated part in present behavior. He argues, for instance, that "the 'self' of the child is in part feedback from what it is toward what it is becoming." The target toward which the child is moving is his "future focused role image"--a conception of what he or she wishes to be like at various points in the future.

This "future focused role image," Singer writes, "tends ... to organize and give meaning to the pattern of life he is expected to take. Where, however, there is only a hazily defined or functionally non-existent future role, then the meaning which is attached to behavior valued by the larger society does not exist; schoolwork becomes meaningless, as do the rules of' middle-class society and of parental discipline."

Put more simply, Singer asserts that each individual carries in his mind not merely a picture of himself at present, a self-image, but a set of pictures of himself as he wishes to be in the future. "This person of the future provides a focus for the child; it is a magnet toward which he is drawn; the framework for the present, one might say, is created by the future."

One would think that education, concerned with ,the development of the individual and the enhancement of adaptability, would do all in its power to help children develop the appropriate time-bias, the suitable degree of futureness. Nothing could be more dangerously false.

Consider, for example, the contrast between, the way schools today treat space and time. Every pupil, in virtually every school, is carefully helped to position himself in space. He is required to study geography. Maps, charts and globes all help pinpoint his spatial location. Not only do we locate him with respect to his city, region, or country, we even try, to explain the spatial relationship of the earth to the rest of the solar system and, indeed, to the universe.

When it comes to locating the child in time, however, we play a cruel and disabling trick on him. He, Is steeped, to the extent possible, in his nation's past and that of the world. He studies ancient Greece and Rome, the rise of feudalism, the French Revolution, and so forth. He is introduced to Bible stories and patriotic legends. He is peppered with endless accounts of wars, revolutions and upheavals, each one dutifully tagged with its appropriate date in the past.

At some point he is even introduced to "current events." He may be asked to bring in newspaper clippings, and a really enterprising teacher may go so far as to ask him to watch the evening news on television. He is offered, in short, a thin sliver of the present.

And then thne stops. The school is silent about tomorrow. "Not only do our history courses terminate with the year they are taught," wrote Professor Ossip Flechtheim, a generation ago, "but the same situation exists in the study of government and economics, psychology and biology." Time comes racing to an abrupt halt. The student is focused backward instead of forward. The future, banned as it were from the classroom, is banned from his consciousness as well. It is as though there were no future.

This violent distortion of his time sense shows up in a revealing experiment conducted by psychologist John Condry , Professor in the Department of Human Developmeni, Cornell University. In separate studies at Cornell and UCLA, Condry gave groups of students the opening paragraph of a story. This paragraph described a fictional "Professor Hoffman," his wife and their adopted Korean daughter. The daughter is found crying, her clothes torn, a group of other children staring at her. The students were asked to complete the story.

What the subjects did not know is that they had previously been divided into two groups. In the case tof one group, the opening paragraph was set in the past. The characters "heard," "saw" or "ram." The students were asked to "Tell what Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman did and what was said by the children." For the second group, the paragraph was set entirely in the future tense. They were asked to "Tell what Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman will do and what will be said by the cbil'dren." Apart from this shift of tense, both paragraphs and instructions were identical.

The results of the experiment were sharply etched. One group wrote comparatively rich and interesting story endings, peopling their accounts with many characters, creatively introducing new situations and dialogue. The other produced extremely sketchy endings, thin, unreal and forced. The past was richly conceived; the future empty. "It is," Professor Condry commented, "as if we find it easier to talk about the past than the future."

If our children are to adapt more successfully to rapid change, this distortion of time must be ended. We must sensitize them to the possibilities and probabilities of tomorrow. We must enhance their sense of the future.

Society has many built-in time spanners that help to link the present generation with the past. Our sense of the past is developed by contact with the older generation, by our knowledge of history, by the accumulated heritage of art, music, literature, and science passed down to us through the years. It is enhanced, by immediate contact with the objects that surround us, each of which has a point of origin in the past, each of which provides us with a trace of identification with the past.

No such time spanners enhance our sense of the future. We have no objects, no friends, no relatives, & no works of art, no music or literature, that originate in the future. We have, as it were, no heritage of the future.

Despite this, there are ways to send the human mind arching forward as well as backward. We need to begin by creating a stronger future-consciousness on the part of the public, and not just by means of Buck Rogers comic strips, films like Barbarella, or articles about the marvels of space travel or medical research. These make a contribution, but what is needed is a concentrated focus on the social and personal implications of the future, not merely on its technological characteristics.

If the contemporary individual is going to have to cope with the equivalent of millennia of change within the compressed span of a single lifetime, he must carry within his skull, reasonably accurate (even if gross) images of the future.

Medieval men possessed an image of the afterlife, complete with vivid mental pictures of heaven and hell. We need now to propagate dynamic, non-supernatural images of what temporal life will be like, what it will sound and smell and taste and feel like in the fast-onrushing future.

To create such images and thereby soften the impact of future shock, we must begin by making speculation about the future respectable. Instead of deriding the "Crystal-ball gazer," we need to encourage people, from childhood on, to speculate freely, even fancifully, not merely about what next week holds in store for them but about what the next generation holds in store for the entire human race. We offer our children courses in history; why not also courses in "Future,' courses in which the possibilities and probabilities of the future are systematically explored, exactly as we now explore the social system of the Romans or the rise of the feudal manor?

Robert jungk, one of Europes leading futurist-philosophers, has said: "Nowadays almost exclusive stress is laid on learning what has happened and has been done. Tomorrow . . . at least one third of lectures and exercises ought to be concerned with scientific, technical, artistic and philosophical work in progress, anticipated crises and possible future answers to these challenges."

We do not have a literature of the future for use in these courses, but we do have literature about the consisting not only of the great utopias but also of contemporary science fiction. Science fiction is held in low regard as a branch of literature, and perlihaps it deserves this critical contempt. But if we view it as a kind of sociology of the future, rather than as literature, science fiction has immense value as a force for the creation of the habit of anticipation. Our children should be studying Arthur C. Clarke, William Tenn, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, and Robert Sheckley, not because these writers can tell them about rocket ships and time machines but,, more important, because they can lead young minds through an imaginative exploration of the jungle of political, social, psychological, and ethical issues that will confront these children as adults. Science fiction should he required reading for Future I.

But students should not only read. Various games have been designed to educate young people and adults about future possibilities and probabilities. Future, a game distributed by Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary, introduces players to various technological and social alternatives of the future, and forces them to choose among them. It reveals how technological and social events are linked to one another, encourages the player to think in probabilistic terms, and, with various modifications, can help clarify the role of values in decisionmaking. At Cornell, Professor Jose Villegas of the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis, has, with the aid of a group of students, created a number of games having to do with housing and community action in the future. Another game developed under his direction is devoted to elucidating the ways in which technology and values will interact in the world of tomorrow.

With younger children, other exercises are possible. To sharpen the individual's future-focused role image, students can be asked to write their own "future autobiographies" in which they picture themselves five, ten or twenty years in the future. By submitting these to class discussion, by comparing different assumptions in them, contradictions in the child's own projections can be identified and examined. At a time when the self is being broken into successive selves, this technique can be used to provide continuity for the individual. If children at fifteen, for example, are given the future autobiographies they themselves wrote at age twelve, they can see how maturation has altered their own images of the future. They can be helped to understand how their values, talents, skills, and knowledge have shaped their own possibilities.

Students, asked to imagine themselves several years hence, might be reminded that their brothers, parents, and friends will also be older, and asked to imagine the "important others" in their lives as they will be.

Such exercises, linked with the study of probability and simple methods of prediction that can be used in ones personal life, can delineate and modify each individual's conception of the future, both personal and social. They can create a new individual time-bias, a new sensitivity to tomorrow that will prove helpful in coping with the exigencies of the present.

Among highly adaptive individuals, men and women who are truly alive in, and responsive to, their times, there is a virtual nostalgia for the future. Not an uncritical acceptance of all the potential horrors of tomorrow, not a blind belief in change for its own sake, but an overpowering curiosity, a drive to know what will happen next.

This drive does strange and wonderful things. One winter night I witnessed a poignant quiver run through a seminar room when a white-haired man explained to a group of strangers what had brought him there to attend my class on the Sociology of the Future. The group included corporate long-range planners, staff from major foundations, publishers and research centers. Each participant spieled off his reason for attending. Finally, it was the turn of the little man in the corner. He spoke in cracked, but eloquent English:

"My name is Charles Stein. I am a needle, worker all my life. I am seventy-seven years old, and I want to get what I didn't get in my youth. I want to know about the future. I want to die an educated man!"

The abrupt silence that greeted this simple affimation still rings in the ears of those present. Before this eloquence, all the armor of graduate degrees, corporate titles and prestigious rank fell. I hope Mr. Stein is still alive, enjoying his future, and teaching others, as he did us that night.

When millions share this passion about the future we shall have a society far better equipped to meet the impact of change. To create such curiosity and awareness is a cardinal task of education. To create an education that will create this curiosity is the third, and perhaps central, mission of the super-industrial revolution in the schools.

Education must shift into the future tense.