Editor’s note: Nelson’s “In it for the Money” column appears regularly in The Chronicle, roughly around the third Wednesday of the month. Readers will recognize the subtle thematic connection of this month’s column to Maker Faire Detroit, which takes place July 28-29 this year. That fair is about tinkering with stuff, and Nelson’s column is also about tinkering with stuff, but more importantly, ideas.
Last month I basically argued that it’s petty – and possibly tragically stupid – to demand schools “prepare our kids to participate in the 21st Century economy,” or whatever stump-speech claptrap rhetoric the blue-suit-red-tie men are using this cycle. 
That said, I know I’ll never get what I want, because plenty of good hearted folks – very rationally – want our schools to focus implicitly (if not explicitly) on prepping our brood to participate efficiently in economic exchange. Money, after all, makes the world go round. 
Fortunately, economic competence need not exclude compassionate mutual usefulness. But moving toward either goal, let alone both, demands that we change how we’re doing things. Simply put, the public education system we have is largely designed to create employees, folks who can obediently and accurately execute on another person’s directions in an orderly fashion for a predetermined block of time.
Unfortunately, we’re sorta shy on employers, so producing more employees just gluts the market and devalues that resource. In case it isn’t suitably obvious, being trained to follow directions doesn’t necessarily prepare you to be the person determining what should be done. What we need are folks capable of making up new things to do, and content to see those best-laid plans torn asunder in the productive chaos of Getting Things Done.