The students we’re teaching, their careers will be peaking in the 2030s-2040s.
Hearing that line from Dr. Randy Bass of Georgetown University stopped me cold. Bass was the keynote speaker at the Blended Learning in the Liberal Arts conference at Bryn Mawr College, which I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at last week.
While that’s only 12 years out, hearing the date 2030 still feels like the insane future. Like Jetsons-level future. It also strikes at the balancing act we face in teaching journalism.
Our responsibility as educators is to prepare our students for their careers, not just for a job. That’s the core of my teaching philosophy. We need to teach our students to solve interesting problems, to think big and beyond themselves, to create the future of journalism. But at the same time, my kids need jobs now. They have bills to pay, student loans looming. Many of them are getting jobs at smaller media outlets to start, which may not value big thinking or may not have the luxury of creating the future because the present presents too many immediate challenges.
In his talk, Bass discussed the need to balance higher education between the traditional, elite, selective model and the free-wheeling open online model touted by entrepreneurs. He said that a college’s main purpose has to recognize the growth of technology.
“As machines get better at being machines, the primary purpose of higher education has to be helping humans get better at being human,” he said.
Which, naturally, got me thinking about the game story.
In my sports writing and reporting course at SUNY Oswego, we spend the first two to three weeks of the semester working on the basic game story. I’ve talked about why here before — I have a lot of broadcasting students who’ve written very few news stories, I view the basic game story as the scales of sports journalism, I think it’s important to learn a basic form before graduating to bigger stories, and I think the game story is still incredibly valuable in our profession (maybe not for Cavs-Warriors, but for high school sports it’s vital.)
But hearing that quote about helping humans get better at being human got me thinking about how computer algorithms are able to write basic game stories.
And it’s got me thinking - is spending nearly a fifth of the semester on writing game stories the best use of my students time? Is it preparing them for a job at the expense of their careers? Is it inadvertently teaching them to compete with machines instead of getting them be more human and to solve the interesting problems of sports journalism?