Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Education and the Future

Education. It is something I am so incredibly passionate about. I believe that all children are born with talent and the ability to succeed and the single factor that can either squash or foster that talent is the educational environment they are subjected to which includes both the institution they attend by day as well as the home they return to in the afternoon. I will admit to having been given, over the course of my life, a pretty fabulous education. I was given a private education from 2nd grade through my BA. Private school means different things in different places. In some places it is a punishment for ill behaved children. Where I grew up it was considered a privilege. I was nurtured and well educated and went off to college with a strong ability to succeed. And I did. I graduated Magna Cum Laude, first in my division, and Phi Beta Kappa. But for all my success, I still found myself on the other side of college wondering what to do. Do I get a job or go back for another degree? If I get a job, what should I do? What are my talents? I have a BA in Art History and French but really what are my skills? My even brighter brother went pre-med and never had to face these questions. He graduated, got into a top med school, got an internship and residency at probably the best hospital in the world and is now a fine young radiologist. So why am I telling you all this? Well because my daughter, my eldest child, has started kindergarten this year and I am forever worried about the educational environment that will surround my children in their formative years. Will they grow to be life long learners? Will they learn to work hard and succeed? Will they respect the classroom and their education? WILL THEY KNOW WHAT TO DO WHEN THEY GET OUT OF COLLEGE???

My husband and I believe that traditional education is NOT the way of the future. We believe that by the time our children are entering the workforce for the first time our world is going to be a very different and much smaller place. Things change rapidly now and we feel that in 15 – 20 years it is going to mean NOTHING to say you are a US educated person. As we can plainly see now, there are plenty of people around the world who can do our jobs as well as us for cheaper. I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking they can do anything they want because they are lucky enough to be Americans but I want them to think they can do anything they want because they are talented. I want them to be prepared for a more global focused world and be able to speak other languages or know other cultures enough that they can work together with the people of other nations.

Part of our decision to move to NC last year was for my children to attend a unique private school down there. It had all the wonderful attributes of the private schools I went to up here but had this Global Curriculum that knocked my socks off. I feel that this school offers a program that will really provide children with ALL the tools to succeed in the world they will be facing in 2025. Unfortunately, life threw us a curve ball and this move did not happen and we had to withdraw from that school. I still have mini-breakdowns every once in a while about that. My kids are enrolled in the public schools now mainly because the private schools up here are insanely expensive and we just can’t do it for three kids and none of the private schools up here seem to address the global issues with which my husband and I are so concerned.

Last night I went to our PTO meeting at which the new Superintendent of our school system spoke. He is a man who spent 6 years living in China as an educator and superintendent. He spoke of his belief that the old ways of educating our children will not truly prepare them for the world they will enter after college. He is over hauling the curriculum from K-12 to incorporate a stronger focus on critical thinking, creative problem solving and innovation. He believes these are the needed tools for the future in our rapidly changing world. My husband and I could not agree with him more. He is also going to spend the next 3 years developing the IB (International Baccalaureate) program at our high school and we will be one of the first in the state to offer it. I nearly cried at the meeting. I was so willing to do anything for my children to get the kind of education I wanted them to have and when all seemed to be lost, the education came to us. This is a sign. This does help me feel good about the life choices we have made. Thank you universe for sending me this peace of mind.

Here is a passage from a letter this new Superintendent wrote to the community and a link to a 20-minute video of Sir Ken Robinson that is funny and moving. If you have the time, please watch it is captivating.

“Our children are facing a different world; one that continues to rapidly change. Today, it is not one's nationality, or where one may live that will be the predictor of success; it is what you know and your ability to adapt, think, innovate and create that matters. Thomas Friedman in his book "The World Is Flat" describes this new world. Bill Gates expresses the aforementioned new world environment in the following quote from Friedman's book. Gates says:
"Thirty years ago, if you had a choice between being born a genius on the outskirts of Bombay or Shanghai or being born an average person in Poughkeepsie, you would take Poughkeepsie because your chances of thriving and living a decent life there, even with average talent, were much greater. But as the world has gone flat, and so many people can now plug in and play from anywhere, natural talent has started to trump geography. Now, I would rather be a genius born in China than an average guy born in Poughkeepsie... We're going to tap into the energy and talent of five times as many people as we did before."

Although there remain solid reasons for us all to want to live in the United States and preferably in [our town], our students must understand the world discussed above and more importantly, prepare for their ultimate entry into it. Please "click" on the link to the left entitled "Sir Ken Robinson", to hear his thoughts on this subject, as well as his views on creativity, philosophy and a child's need to think and be innovative.”

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