Coping at the crossroads: Societal and educational transformation

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Journal of Technology Education






Scholarly communications Project

Publication Date

Fall 1992

First Page


Last Page



As the nature of a workforce changes over time, one broadly-defined group of workers diminishes in numbers while another group increases in numbers. For example, during the period 1890-1910, the major proportion of the workforce in the United States shifted from agriculture to industrial production (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1975). Figure 1 presents the concept. Relentless technological developments gave rise to new job classifications and to increased employment opportunities in industrial production. At the same time, technological developments diminished employment opportunities in another field, in this case, agriculture. Over the long term, then, one might expect that demand for groups of occupations will increase over time, but will be expected to decline when that employment sector is eclipsed by yet another employment sector, driven by a new technological wave. The intersection of the two curves charting the demand for agricultural occupations and industrial occupations occurred during a time of rapid societal change, which was, in turn, a significant impetus for major educational change. Moreover, because these times of change have historical precedents, they may have a relatively high degree of predictability. Indeed, Toffler (1990) suggested that recent events are shaped by “distinct patterns . . . [and] identifiable forces” that once understood allow us to “cope strategically, rather than haphazardly . . .” (p. xvii). To explore the hypothesis that educational ferment is a naturally occurring phenomena at the juncture of technological ages, selected economic transition points will be juxtaposed with developments in the evolving field of technology education. From this perspective, the recently-recognized shift in employment patterns from manufacturing-based employment to informationbased employment has influenced the shift from an industrial materials content base to a technology systems base in contemporary technology education programs.

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