Designing a Future-Forward Education: The Power of Longtermism

January 30, 2023 / 5 min. read

Re-imagining education is not enough; as I’ve said previously, it’s time to get specific. Integrating the concept of “longtermism” into curriculum mapping and design is one way to achieve this goal.

Longtermism in education is a philosophy that emphasizes preparing students for the long-term consequences of their actions rather than solely focusing on short-term outcomes and test scores. The rapidly changing world requires a different type of education that equips young people with the knowledge and values they need to address the world’s most pressing challenges. The Forethought Foundation’s research shows that the long-term implications of our decisions today should be an integral part of the curriculum. This means students need to be taught to think beyond the immediate and consider the long-term consequences of their actions and decisions.

Longtermism can help to create more critical thinkers, problem solvers and socially responsible individuals who understand the importance of considering the well-being of future generations. By embracing a long-term view of the world, students are encouraged to think beyond their own needs and consider the impact of their actions in the broader world. In this way, longtermism can help to create a better future for everyone, where individuals and organizations make decisions that prioritize long-term benefits over short-term gains.


But how can educators help students build a long-term mindset? William McKaskill put it best when he said that humanity acts like an impulsive teenager – our actions now will have lifelong effects. That’s why Longtermism must be woven into the curriculum.

One practical approach is to promote intergenerational thinking within project design and prototyping. Educators can encourage learners to consider their actions’ impact on future generations. This method helps students understand that their choices today can affect not only their future but also the future of those who come after them. This can be a powerful motivator, especially when students are able to see the tangible results of their actions.

Another way to encourage long-term thinking is incorporating systems thinking into the curriculum. Systems thinking is a holistic approach that recognizes that everything is interconnected and that small changes in one part of a system can significantly impact the whole. By teaching students systems thinking, they can learn to consider the long-term consequences of their actions and how their decisions can impact the entire system. It’s not just about ensuring students ace a test in the short-term but about preparing them for a world that demands skills to handle skill sets encouraged by foresight experts like VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity).


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Finally, incorporating real-world applications into the curriculum can help students to better understand the long-term implications of their actions. For example, studying sustainability and environmental issues can help students understand the importance of prototyping design for a better planet for future generations. By making real-world connections, students are more likely to internalize the long-term implications of their actions and make decisions that prioritize the greater good.

In conclusion, incorporating longtermism into education can shape how students are taught and the outcomes they aim for. By encouraging the long-term implications of their actions, students can be better prepared to address the world’s most pressing challenges. Whether it’s through promoting intergenerational thinking, incorporating systems thinking, or making real-world connections, educators can help students build a long-term mindset that will serve them well into tomorrow.



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