To many the United States is still enjoying the Industrial Age, a time that began as we entered the 19th century. As the country shifted from the agrarian age, we say the introduction of the steam engine, the iron industry, and other such developments that signaled the shift in our economy and our American workforce.
Some see the current age, as we shift from an industrial economy to a digital, information society as a move from that Industrial Age. But as Klaus Schwaub, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum has written, we are actually entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR. It is a time identified with robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and other advances that were considered part of the science fiction of the first through third Industrial Revolutions.
As we enter 4IR, one thing is clear. We need to prepare the students of both today and tomorrow in ways that were different from the past as we ready learners for the possibilities and the jobs of the future. When we moved from an agrarian to an industrial economy, we saw a major shift in education. In the U.S., the industrial age meant a free public education available to all students. It meant more and more individuals pursuing postsecondary education. And it meant shifting from the skills needed for the farm to the skills needed for a factory.