‘Most Likely to Succeed’ is a documentary that highlights and reflects on the most controversial and pronounced changes that have happened in the past few decades to our educational system in the US. Watching the world go from a competition of human abilities while shaping those abilities to best serve the being of people, to the rise of smart machines and artificial intelligence that began from outperforming humans in games like Chess, to completely replacing humans at many high-quality jobs that require engineering skills or simply complex math abilities. That being said, our abilities that used to run our lives are being challenged by computers. Our choices as humans are either to try to stop producing such technology and instead go back to our original way of living using our skills to perform daily tasks, or to keep improving artificial intelligence, while building an education system that structures a new set of skills that differentiates us from machines, something called “Soft Skills” as a physics teacher at High Tech High described it (Most Likely to Succeed 1:15).
Many different ideas and ideologies have been found in an effort to improve the education system while addressing the point mentioned above. High Tech High charter school, located in San Diago, California, is one unique approach highlighted in the ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ documentary. High Tech High’s approach towards providing the best education to children is teaching them what machines cannot learn and that is simply described as ‘Soft Skills.’ This is a new education system that works primarily on peoples skills, not test scores that could be beaten by a computer, but skills that only humans could learn and master. What that physics teacher meant by teaching soft skills was teaching elements such as collaboration, teamwork, showing up and producing something while being passionate about it, “skills like these will stay with them, they are not going to forget them” says the teacher (Most Likely to Succeed1:15). Elaborating more on the traditional education system widely used by public and private schools these days, Sir Ken Robinson, Education author and speaker, says “ the current education system fails to recognize that all students are people…as soon as you forget that and start talking about students as scores and data you are in big trouble’ troubles like finding a job for example. Robinson compares the old days, when students who had a college degree, guaranteed and were guaranteed a job, however nowadays that is not the case, and in addition to that, students have much less exposure to life skills as they used to before, skills like the soft skills we mentioned earlier that would allow them to work not only in their specific area of studies but anywhere else really.
This scene shows, at an early stage of the documentary, how the students are sitting at a traditional classroom setting, brainstorming their projects.
And here, Samantha is leading her own play, directing her actresses [classmates] on their roles, while motivating them to keep pushing hard since the deadline for showing their play is approaching. Through this technique is how these students will learn something that standardized tests cannot asses.
The current education system is mainly centered around test scores. SATs, ACTs, MCATS, States’ tests and so on. Interestingly enough, these tests over time have lost their effectiveness of assessing peoples’ knowledge for many reasons, including them being culturally biased, are only designed to assess people who are familiar with the US education system, and class and socioeconomic status of students can drastically impact their scores on these tests. Yet these tests are heavily dependent on when it comes to entering college. The point being made by Greg Whiteley’s “Most Likely to Succeed” is that to rescue ourselves from being turned into computerized human beings, we need to revolutionize our education system by teaching values, and skills that machines can’t learn, yet one hole in this ideology is what has been raised by many parents of those attending High Tech High themselves, how are we going to assess these ‘soft skills’ and values that students are learning at this type of education system? Are they going to be able to enter college? And how are colleges in the future, if this education system succeeds, going to look at students’ applications? All of these are holes that the documentary wasn’t able to show an answer for, yet provided strong evidence that such process will take long for everyone to internalize the system first, and then move into a direction where it could fix our high education system too.
Greg Whiteley, Most Likely to Succeed, video documentary (2015)