Futureproof: A Book About Your Kids’ Futures (and Yours)

By California State PTA Family Engagement and Communication Commission

 

Futureproof, written by technology writer Kevin Roose, offers new perspectives and interesting food for thought on matters that shape the relationship between families and schools today. The book suggests “nine rules for humans in the age of automation.”  It’s an important topic if you want to ensure that your children’s education stays relevant in future job markets while also supporting their social and emotional health. As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes increasingly integrated into every aspect of our lives, at work and at home, how can we protect people from being replaced by automation and preserve our humanity?

Among the author’s more interesting insights is that rather than try to compete with computers in terms of productivity and efficiency – where the computers have the upper hand, so to speak – we should focus on developing those human skills and attributes where we do have the advantage: our creativity, our ability to make sense out of novel and chaotic situations, and our capacity to understand and personally relate to the feelings of other humans. Our future success depends on being able to do the things that the computer can’t do – things that highlight the efforts and contributions made by other people (examples include products or services described as artisanal, concierge, personal, or hand-crafted).  

PTA has a role to play

Roose recommends we “build big nets and small webs.”  The term big nets refers to the kinds of social safety programs established to protect children, youth, and families in times of crisis (a common focus for PTA advocacy efforts). PTAs themselves can be thought of as small webs since our local associations are frequently on the front lines finding creative ways to help families when they find themselves in need or distress, as recently demonstrated during the pandemic. For many members of our school communities, PTA activities and support for family engagement offered a means of resilience, encouragement, aid, and friendship during difficult times.

Recent news stories about the lack of accountability among social media companies and the implications of the content they relentlessly provide may be motivating you to reexamine technology use in your own households.  It could be time for you as PTA leaders to consider the growing influence of the digital world more broadly and decide how that should influence PTA strategies for family engagement related to the education offered in your local schools. 

Implications for what schools teach

Roose notes that while “many ideas have been proposed and tested for bringing our educational system into the twenty-first century,” most have dealt primarily with how we teach, rather than what we should teach.  His recommendations for practical skills that maximize the advantages of people over machines include:

  • Attention Guarding – Finding ways to maintain our focus despite a persistent onslaught of external forces trying to distract us.  This isn’t simply a matter of maintaining productivity but is important in our ability to exercise control over where we choose to direct our attention.
  • Room Reading – It takes emotional intelligence to be able to “read a room” – a skill that is valuable in the workplace.  Roose suggests that women, racial minorities, and LGBTQ people may be particularly adept at this as it has long been an essential skill for their success in the dominant culture. 
  • Resting – A surprising skill to cultivate is the ability to allow yourself sufficient rest to help prevent burnout and exhaustion, and to reconnect with our human selves.  Roose suggests, “In the automated future, as more of our contributions come from big breakthroughs, inspired ideas, and emotional aptitude, being well-rested is going to become even more critical.”
  • Digital Discernment – As people increasingly get their news and information from social media networks, it becomes ever more important to engage critical thinking skills to distinguish truth from fiction and to differentiate between credible sources and sponsored content.  “…It’s going to get even harder in the coming years with the rise of algorithmically generated text, realistic conversational AI, and synthetic video (‘deepfakes’) produced with the help of machine learning,” Roose cautions.
  • Analog Ethics – In an age when our value will come from our ability to relate to other people, Roose asserts that treating people well, acting ethically, and behaving in prosocial ways will remain essential to lifelong success. Schools that offer social-emotional learning programs to children are more likely to produce well-socialized, responsible adults able to cope with change.
  • Consequentialism – Organizations that create or use AI systems need to anticipate the ways these products can be misused, exploited, or gamed. Consequentialist thinking can be useful both in spotting flaws in technological systems before they cause catastrophic problems and, in other areas such as medicine, law enforcement, and human rights, being alert to where significant opportunities for error exist. Roose recommends incorporating consequentialist thinking as a standard part of STEM curriculum.

In the book’s final pages, Roose urges readers to step into the broader conversation, to “learn the details of the power structures that are shaping technological adaptation and bend those structures toward a better, fairer future.”  

This is certainly an opportunity for family and PTA engagement – to use our collective influence to help shape education, public policy, and the technological landscape to benefit children, youth, and families.

Understanding the Visual and Performing Arts Standards

PARENTS’ GUIDE TO ARTS EDUCATION IN CALIFORNIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS

California State PTA in partnership with Create CA is pleased to launch the newly revised Parents’ Guide to Arts Education in California Public Schools. This guide provides an overview of what your child will learn in the arts disciplines of dance, music, theatre and the visual arts by the end of each grade level.

By asking about the arts program at your child’s school, you are showing your interest in all students, not just the “talented,” having the opportunity to express their unique individuality through creating and learning in and through the arts.

The information is grouped into four sections:

Download the full guide here:

ENGLISH   SPANISH

EXPLORE

  • A snapshot of your child as they experience the arts in their classroom at each grade level.
  • A few key examples of what is typically taught in dance, music, theatre and the visual arts at each grade level to use as a starting point in talking to
    your child’s teacher.
  • Questions to ask the teacher about your child’s progress in arts learning and about the school’s arts program.
  • Ideas for what you can do to help your child learn in the arts at school, at home and in the community.
  • If you are interested in expanding or improving the visual and performing arts program at your child’s school, key resources for getting started are provided.

The arts learning examples in this guide are based on the Visual and Performing Arts Framework for California Public Schools, the California Visual and Performing Arts Content Standards and the National Core Arts Standards. While standards in every subject area are revised over the years, if your child is being provided with the type of arts content suggested here in each grade, he or she will be well prepared for learning in the arts in each grade level.

“California State PTA is excited to provide this arts curriculum guide for parents and education advocates across California. In partnership with CREATE CA, California State PTA has put together a simple, easy-to-read guide of the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) Standards by grade level. This guide, in conjunction

with the California Arts Education Data Project, will give parents and education advocates a snapshot of how a full arts curriculum advances student success socially, emotionally and academically.” – Celia Jaffe, President, California State PTA

Four Big Upgrades to California’s Public Schools

California’s K-12 public schools are undergoing an ambitious remodeling project, with a focus on ensuring all students, no matter who they are or what their circumstance, graduate high school ready to succeed in higher education, careers, and in life.

All of these changes work together locally to give parents, students, educators and communities more of a say in the ways education funding is spent in their school district, how priorities are set, and the strategies used to meet the unique needs of all students.

Upgrades include:

  1. High Learning Standards for All Students
  2. Student-Centered Funding
  3. Locally-Created Plans for Your District
  4. Measuring Local Progress.

Download the flier in English or Spanish.

College Savings Road Map

It’s never too early – or too late – to plan for your child’s college future and to develop your college-savings road map! California State PTA and ScholarShare, California’s 529 College Savings Plan, are teaming up to raise awareness about the importance of saving for college.

ScholarShareCollegeHere are a few steps you can take to develop a college savings road map for your child:

  • Start Small and Early — The task of saving for college can be overwhelming, but the sooner you get started, the greater the likelihood that your child will go to college and have the funds to pay for it. Various studies show that a child with a college savings account is 6 to 7 times more likely to attend college. The key is to get started.
  • Review Your Finances — Saving for college can be daunting. That’s why it’s important to take a careful look at your finances and identify any available funds that you can regularly contribute to your college savings. No contribution is too small. Every little bit helps.
  • Define Your Goal — Paying for 100 percent of a child’s future college expenses may not be a realistic goal for some parents. Fortunately, the share you save is only a part of a larger strategy to help pay for college. Define a goal that makes sense for your family and plan accordingly.
  • Understand Your 529 Plan — A 529 plan is a state-sponsored, tax-advantaged savings plan designed to help families save for college. The State of California offers the ScholarShare College Savings Plan. In addition to the many benefits, you can open a ScholarShare account with just $25. Visit scholarshare.com to learn more.

LEARN MORE

Family Engagement Guide for PTA Leaders

This Family Engagement Guide contains information on why family engagement in schools matters, how to grow family-school partnerships to enhance student achievement and ways to support student success and learning at home. Throughout the resource, the word “parent” refers to parents, guardians and caregivers who have the primary responsibility for raising children and are involved in their development, learning and growth.

FEGuideDownload:

School Smarts Parent Engagement Program Brochure

The School Smarts Parent Engagement Program is a model for creating meaningful and diverse parent involvement. It brings parents from all backgrounds together in support of their common interest: helping their children and schools succeed.

Download:

Dad Involvement

It’s a guy thing! Dads, stepdads, grandfathers and male caregivers all play a big role in our kids’ future success.

MEN PLAY A STRONG ROLE IN KIDS’ SUCCESS

dad_webWhen men actively participate in children’s education, it leads to better grades and higher attendance. Plus men’s participation contributes to creating healthy school climates and – in the long run – increased likelihoods of college attendance.

Men have been a part of the PTA from our beginning a century ago, and men must continue to be involved in the next century and beyond if our kids – and our future – will truly be successful.

Contact your local PTA to find out more about joining and getting involved. And find out more about how PTA is reaching out to men throughout the country.

“A father ‘exerts a distinct and independent influence’ on a student’s success in school.”

– National Center for Education Statistics