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EDUCATION FOR TODAY AND TOMORROW

February 4, 2012

I am not a scientist, a brain specialist, or educator by profession, but I AM a student of the world around me and I am appalled at the swirling arguments in Minnesota today on how to “fix” Minnesota Schools and our education system.

And so, about the ONLY thing I agree with in the misdirected, emotional and pandering stands on the topic is that YES, we need to examine why as a state we have evolved from a belief in providing a school system that continues to feed our greatest asset – our citizens and their children that make up and will continue to make up our work force pool- to a growing belief that the Minnesota school system is simply a solution to a financial problem.
These are pretty strong words from one that admits to not being an expert in the field, and yet, I would go one step further: I would vote to put a HOLD on the posturing debates and attempts to legislate until we are sure those “in charge” within our school systems and all branches of government have put aside their outdated 20th century positions and pledged that each can provide credentials that certify they have stopped, listened, and evaluated the body of knowledge available today on how our brains work, how we learn, and what will be needed from our labor pool in the future to support a state of which we are proud, Once they have done that, I realize some will still revert to their out-dated modes and fall-back position and at best, all will emerge with new differing views on how we best achieve our common goals. But at least those differences might be based on an understanding of the reality we have before us, rather than the reality of our past.

If my own bookshelves are full of tomes that reflect these advances, from John Medina’s “Brain Rules” to Davidson’s “Now You See It – how the brain science of attention will transform the way we live, work and learn”; why is it a stretch to expect that those to whom we have entrusted our state’s greatest resource should at least be familiar with this body of thought?

In the 19th century, we built our educational system on existing knowledge and our agricultural needs; In the 20th century, we updated our educational system based on existing knowledge and our emerging industrial needs; In the 21st century, it is now time to update our educational system based on existing knowledge and needs of the digital information world in which we already live-and what we envision our state’s needs to be by 2050 if not 2099!

I borrow from the Davidson thinking to challenge us all. When we have answers to these questions, we will be prepared to move forward towards implementing needed change:
• How can we redesign our schools to prepare our kids for the challenges they’ll face as adults?
• What will the workers and workplaces of the future look like?
• And how can we learn to adapt to life changes that seem almost too revolutionary to contemplate?
Of course it won’t be easy. Of course we will not all agree. Of course, what we envision today, will be far different than that which actually emerges in the next 30-50 years. But if we put our heads together, listen to each other and collaborate on potential solutions, we will have a much better chance of success than if we continue to dig in our heels and shout loudly about preserving the out-dated methods of the past.

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