Beth Ann Krier's report of Jerry Brown's "Schools of the Future" conference (Dec. 28) suggests we are still a long way from getting at the core of our national "education problem." While such groups and events can focus much-needed attention on the need to reorient our notions of learning, education and the environments in which these processes take place, they tend to focus attention on the wrong things first.
For example, attention usually focuses on the dazzle and promise of computers and new high-tech schools. While these tools can certainly bring about needed improvements, their proposed applications aren't guided by a clear, comprehensible master plan for making best use of our greatest national resource--ourselves.
One of the reasons that education (meaning the formalized system for causing learning to happen) has failed to evolve to meet the challenges of a fast-changing environment is that there has been no regular and systematic rethinking of the needs for learning in our society. The kinds of knowledge and skills required to be a successful participant in the fast-moving civilization we can envision for the future are different than those of the machine age, when our current concepts of formal education were institutionalized. This alone would seem to suggest the need for vastly different kinds of learning--an emphasis on the process and tools of learning, for example, and the development of skill in applying these to many different kinds of situations.