There have been some unforeseen consequences from technology. Take the basic light bulb for example. We have advanced exponentially from the lighting of our buildings, streets and everything else that has followed Edison's grand invention. But, in a comparatively short blip in the history of humankind, the light bulb has also had an unexpected impact. We don’t see the stars like we used to.
The light pollution of our cities has impeded our view to the lights of our universe. So, at the very moment in time when we can truly connect as a global unit, we don’t see the expanse of the evening sky before us to fully appreciate the limitations of our tiny existence. If, for example, more of us could have an opportunity to see our finite earth from the far reaches of space, would it inspire us with a greater sense of urgency to work together to sustain what we have? Perhaps - but it’s a moot point; so we need other alternatives to define and inspire us. How about public education?
With good reason, many organizations use JFK's 1961 vision for a man on the moon by the end of decade as the “crème de la crème” of exemplary system strategy. After all, his vision was clear, focused and definable within a clear timeline. But we haven’t had many clear and progressive strategic visions since the Apollo missions. And, unfortunately, we continue to limit public education to a supporting role in national strategy.
In our flattened world there are new and exciting opportunities. But, as suggested by economist David Foot, we also need a new definition for economic growth that accounts for global sustainability and the reality of our national and global demographic conditions.
Consider, as one example, a report on long term demographic trends by the U.S Central Intelligence Agency that, over ten years ago now, identified many of the world’s most politically unstable and poorest countries (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Iraq) as having youth populations that greatly exceed the number of elders. North America and Europe, on the other hand, have increasingly larger populations of older people that need support from a comparatively smaller number of younger people. Ours is an issue productivity; how to do more with less.
So, at the risk of over simplifying, we have a world with a common need to find useful outcomes for its young people at the same time that we need to find innovative solutions to global economic and environmental challenges. And, we have the capability, unlike never before, to apply a wide range of communication tools to allow this to happen. What’s missing?
In the 2012 U.S. presidential election, neither Obama nor Romney has been able to present a truly relevant strategic vision for public education. Canada, while beginning to recognize the need for a post-secondary strategy, is equally challenged. Public education in North America continues to be seen primarily as fiscal support, with candidates competing to convince their electorate that they are the keeper of a budget that will maximize return for investment.
But system strategy is about process. It’s about how to get to a clearly articulated place. It begins with a common understanding and desire to get there. Like JKF’s vision for a lunar landing, public education can define and lead our view for the future. We can connect and empower the future leaders of our world through our common need for innovative solutions to the challenges of the world. Let’s not get caught up in the all too familiar “why we can’t”. If we can understand where we want to go, we can work together to get there.
Imagine if we could define and apply a progressive and strategic vision for public education. Who, specifically, is this first cohort of students and what do they need for an educational experience that meets the national objectives of their respective societies in a global context? This is a fifteen year plan - the typical number of years that it takes a student to complete high school. It’s definable, it’s measurable and it’s time sensitive.
We are all interconnected now. We may not see the stars as we once did, but we can use education to inspire us to seek global unity from our different cultures, issues and expertise. We can align national educational strategies with global economic strategies – where everybody has an opportunity to contribute to global sustainability.
We have the capability. We just need to shift our interpretation of the strategic role of public education because, without doubt, the one thing that we all share is a love for our children.
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one.
Imagine by John Lennon