Many of us think that the greatest threat we face is ISIS and terrorism. The Trumps of this world would have us living in a walled fortress with a giant ‘do not disturb’ or ‘you are not welcome here’ sign on the gate. It may keep people out but it also keeps people in. Isolation doesn’t work. It never has-it never will especially since we are now part of a global economy. This, however, is not the greatest threat we face. It is not the most important issue for us to focus on. My bet is that the world will tire of ISIS and their barbaric and backward ideology and rid the planet of a scourge that does not deserve to function on the planet among civilized human beings.
The most important issue of this time is the manner in which we are preparing or not preparing our children regarding their educations. The consequences of being short sighted and stubborn are diminishing our importance and our leadership, as a nation, to compete in the open global market place. Consider where we are right now. We are currently operating under a system that was designed over 150 years ago. The goal of education then was to create ‘graduates’ who would be uniform in their perspectives (standardization, Abundance,Diamandis and Kotler) and to demonstrate the same skills and outcomes (conformity, Abundance,Diamandis and Kotler) as the other guy–skills like ‘arithmetic, reading and writing’. These were the skills needed to apply for employment–this is what business asked for back then. Today employers are more often looking for skills like understanding and forward thinking, being able to offer creativity, collaboration and critical thinking. These are the skills that matter today in order to compete and be successful at gaining new employment opportunities. (Abundance, Diamandis & Kotler). In 2006 a group of executives from over 400 major corporations were asked a simple question: “Are students graduating from school ready to go to work?” Their answer: “Not really.”(Abundance, Diamandis and Kotler) However, as a result of our reluctance to make this shift in priorities truancy is way up, the numbers of graduating students is declining dramatically, and our young men, especially, are dropping out of school at alarming rates. Why?
No wonder the radicalization of our young men and women is becoming a problem. They are disillusioned, disconnected and hopelessness has begun to set in. They want to feel engaged, relevant, impassioned and a part of something important. We are giving them none of it. We are still dictating what they will need to know instead of asking them what they want to learn-what excites THEM. As a consequence they are bored to tears, find the curricula irrelevant to what is required to compete for the type of work THEY want to do and have little or no hope of being able to find work after school is done. Many think they are lazy and can’t handle the pressure of school. I think they are fed up with the system and knowing that it won’t change are just giving up. They are saying they don’t want to look forward to huge student debts and few job opportunities. Instead many are becoming wards of the state basically–welfare kids.
If we want to know what we need to do to change this situation we need to ask the ‘customers’ of the system. In this case that would be the kids. They are the ones that are consuming the services being offered. For us we need to recognize that everything stems from having a well educated population who are motivated, creative, energized, challenge oriented, excited, thirsty for knowledge and dedicated to being successful. There are many smart kids doing wonderful things in the world but not near the number there could be if we changed how we introduced them to learning and helped develop those skills that are so vital now. We need to change the process and do it now.
It has been proven that well educated people are more likely to create and participate in strong, free and more stable societies therefore suggesting more enduring democracies. Better educated people are also healthier with fewer incidents of stress, less occurrence of diabetes, fewer heart attacks and they enjoy longer lives. Even greater is the need to provide third world women with the opportunities to be educated along side men. Two-thirds of the 130 million children unable to attend school are females. That will change when we can make education easier to access as has been suggested above. It can be done and by educating women around the world we can substantially reduce world poverty.
Next week I’ll present Part 2 which will outline practical and doable solutions for getting our kids interested, excited and eager to get back into school again. Don’t miss it. This could be one of the most important articles you’ll read all year.
NOTE: I have indicated within brackets where I obtained information quoted in this article. I would eagerly suggest reading “Abundance” by Diamandis and Kotler for one of the most forward thinking and interesting books to come along in a while.
Anyways, that’s how I see it.
All the best, Jim
Comments and thoughts can be sent my way at firstname.lastname@example.org OR jimcloughley.com