Educating Each Student to be a Thriving Citizen.
January 13, 2007
I recently completed The World is Flat – A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times. In sum he traces the tremendous changes that have and are occurring – leading up to and during the first few years of this new century.
Clearly, technological changes have had significant impact on how the flattening of the world and how people all over the world access information and how business is conducted in a far different manner than in recent times. I won’t go into the details of the book and encourage you all to read it – actually I listened to it.
Of significance to us as educators are the challenges and opportunities that our “flattening world” provide for us. Our students will live in a far different world than today. No longer can we assume that we will dominate the world economy and that our current approaches in all endeavors will lead the way. Students in many other countries (India and China for example) no longer are lagging us but in some ways are gaining advantages in key professions such as engineering. If our nation is to maintain its leadership role we have to step up to some challenges and of course, some of those challenges are in education. While we may not be in a crisis, Friedman quotes another writer by saying: “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”
Part of the book addressed what Friedman calls “compassionate flatism” of which there are five components. One of those components is parenting. In his discourse on parenting two passages struck me. The first is the role of parents:
Helping individuals adapt to a flat world is not only the job of governments and companies. It is the job of parents. They too need to know in what world their kids are growing up and what it will take for them to thrive. Put simply, we need a new generation of parents ready to administer tough love: There comes a time when you’ve got to put away the Game Boys, turn off the television set, put away the iPod, and get your kids down to work. . . . The sense of entitlement, the sense that because we once dominated global commence and geopolitics . . . we always will . . . the sense that our kids have to be swaddled in cotton wool so nothing bad or disappointing or stressful happens to them at school is, quite simply a growing cancer on American society.
However, he addresses an important concept, the role of public education.
David Baltimore, the Nobel Prize-winning president of Caltech, knows what it takes to get your child ready to compete against the cream of the global crop. He told me that he is struck by the fact that almost all the students who make it to Caltech, one of the best scientific universities in the world, come from public schools, not from private schools that sometimes nurture a sense of just because you are there, you are special and entitled. . . . Baltimore said: “I give parents enormous credit for this, because these kids are all coming from public schools that people are calling failures. Public education is producing these remarkable students – so it can be done.
We know it can be done because we are doing it every day in our schools.
I welcome any responses. Hope you have a great week.
Students First * Success Focus
Data Driven * Positive Relationships