I rarely read books on Education. Why you ask? Several reasons. First, I feel my value to the education community is the different mindset or approach I bring to the field. If everybody is thinking the same thing or thinking in the same way, then innovation is less likely.
Second, as has been famously said, “Yesterday’s solutions won’t solve tomorrow’s problems.” Education is a reactive field. In other words, the world changes and education reacts to the change. The problem is, the change is usually decades after the cause. If you are only reading books on education, then you are usually reading about reacting to changes whose root cause occurred a decade prior.
I am currently reading (I am usually reading about 3 to 4 books at any given time) The Pentagon’s New Map by Thomas P. M. Barnett. This book seeks to explain his innovative approach to globalization that “combines security, economic, political, and cultural factors to do no less than predict and explain the nature of war and peace in the twenty-first century.” It is a fascinating book that forces one to challenge their thinking about the world and the role of the United States in it.
In chapter one, “New Rule Sets”, Barnett says,
“ Whether we realize it or not, America serves as the ideological wellspring for globalization. These united states still stand as its first concrete expression. We are the only country in the world purposely built around the ideals that animate globalization’s advance: freedom of choice, freedom of movement, freedom of expression. We are connectivity personified. Globalization is this country’s gift to history—the most perfectly flawed projection of the American Dream onto the global landscape. To deny our parentage of globalization is to deny our country’s profound role as world leader over the second half of the twentieth century. More important, to abandon globalization’s future to those violent forces hell-bent on keeping this world divided between the connected and disconnected is to admit that we no longer hold these truths to be self-evident: that all are equal, and that all desire life, liberty, and the chance to pursue happiness. In short, we the people needs to become we the planet.”
The question that arose in my mind was how do we in education prepare our students to take on this enormous responsibility. I say responsibility in the strongest of terms. If you read The Pentagon’s New Map you will gain a new appreciation for this country’s role and responsibility in creating and maintaining the positive globalization conditions and environment.
I have some thoughts. First, Tom Peters pointed out in his book Re-Imagine, that, “Distance is dead.” Technology has allowed us to connect with almost anyone anywhere in the world. Our students have embraced this concept with ease. But, education has not been so quick to pick up the technology baton and run with it. Technology is a major component in the global economy and the connectedness of the globalized world. We must prepare our students to use these tools. Computers should no longer be optional. They should be just as fundamental as paper, pencils, and textbooks. It should be a skill set that students (and teachers) be able to demonstrate. But that is obvious to most of us in the edu-blogosphere. Everyday there is more evidence of technology changing the very nature of how education is delivered. (See When The Education Bubble Goes...Pop!)
Second, if the United States embodies the values of globalization (freedom of choice, freedom of movement, freedom of expression), then it makes sense to inculcate those values in our students to ensure that they take them with them from school in the globalized world. This means a focus on civics, history, and learning the values that make this county so great. Also, students should understand what the global economy is and how it works. This calls for excellent economics and business classes.
Education today, attempts to control where students learn, what they learn, when they learn, and whom they learn from. Our educational system is the very definition of a centralized organization. The federal Department of Education tells the states what to do. State departments of education tell the counties what to do, counties tell the districts what to do, districts tell the principals, the principals tell the teachers, and the teachers tell the students. It is very structured, very systematic, very controlled, very rigid, and very closed. It in not exemplary of the values of globalization, yet purports to prepare students for their roles in the globalized world.
If you view the student as a leaders of their own learning, then they have the ability to decided for themselves the what, when, where, who, and how of their education. They must follow and meet certain expectations and norms, but they are not controlled by a centralized organization. A student is free to blend normal brick-and-mortar school, with home-school, with e-learning or virtual learning, occupational or trade schools, with other opportunities such as travel, trips to museums, internships, volunteering, etc. This blend is what I call the Open Model of Education. Maya Frost calls it "Bold School." (See The Global Student - Old School vs. Bold School)
But it also means allowing student to have opportunities to demonstrate freedom of choice, freedom of movement, and freedom of expression. I question whether our current system is providing these sorts of opportunities for students.
Good American citizens will make good global citizens. We need to inculcate those American values in our students and not be ashamed of them. Our students must have an understanding the global economy and America’s unique history, values, role, and responsibility around the globe.
Third, because we now live in the globalized world, our students will need to be adept with interacting with people from many different cultures. This means developing a skill set for understanding, appreciating, and valuing the cultures of others, while at the same time valuing their own unique set of American values. Our students must be able to navigate the multitude of cultures and develop positive relationships with people from across the globe.
This skill set has been referred to as Cultural Intelligence (CQ). Author of the book Leading With Cultural Intelligence, David LIvermore describes it the ability to demonstrate...
Drive—show the interest and confidence to adapt cross-culturally
Knowledge—understand how differences such as religion, family, education, legal, and economic influences affect the way people think and behave
Strategy—monitor, analyze, and adjust plans in unfamiliar cultural setting
Action—choose the right verbal and nonverbal behaviors, depending on context
Fortunately, America is so diverse. We must use this diversity as a strength and help our students learn from each other.
Fourth, our students will need to become adept at the art of collaboration. Globalization requires that people work with others. Students need to start practicing now by collaborating with fellow students. This is a great opportunity to introduce project base learning into our classrooms and schools. We must create opportunities for students to work together. Technology makes it possible for students to collaborate with students around the globe. I have seen some amazing projects with students in this country working with students from Africa and Australia. This reinforces my point about the need for appreciating other cultures. Collaboration as a skill set should be developed at every opportunity in our schools.
Finally, innovation and creativity skills must be taught and developed in our schools. With thousands of degrees being awarded in the coming decades, especially in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) countries, what is going to set our students apart? Creativity and innovation will. We need these skills taught in our classrooms.
In summary, a connected globalized world will require certain skill sets and knowledge. It is our responsibility to prepare our students to meet these challenges. I question whether, in this current system of high stakes testing and standardized curriculum, we are doing enough to prepare our students for life outside of the classroom walls.