One of the small joys in life that I enjoy is reading the NY Times on Sunday’s. During the week I will read the times on my IPad, but on Sunday we have home delivery of the actual paper. As an old guy, I still like the feel of the paper in my hands while I sit in my favorite chair with a cup of coffee. (This lasts about 15 minutes these days and must usually wait until the kids are safely asleep late in the evening, and by then, the coffee is decaf.)
In Sunday’s (9/9/2012) NY Times, columnist Thomas Friedman wrote an opinion piece that he titled: “New Rules.” In the piece he quotes former President, Bill Clinton to have said, in 1992, “If you work hard and play by the rules” you should be able to have a decent standard of living. Friedman who is the author of the 2005 book, “The World is Flat“, argues that these rules no longer are adequate. With the digital revolution and the flattening of the earth through technology things have changed dramatically. He says, “The truth is, if you want a decent job that will lead to a decent life today, you have to work harder, regularly reinvent yourself, obtain at least some form of post secondary education, make sure that you’re engaged in lifelong learning, and play by the rules.”
The impetus for his perspective comes from Estonia. Public schools in Estonia are establishing a program for teaching first graders – and kids in all other grades – how to do computer programming. According to Wired the curriculum was developed because of the difficulty Estonian companies face in hiring programmers. Estonia has a burgeoning tech industry thanks in part to the success of Skype which was developed in Estonia in 2003.
Let’s be honest. Do you even know where Estonia is? (I had to Google it.) And yet, they are changing their public schools to meet a need and they have faith that their students can handle the new curriculum. As educators in the United States it is critical that we take notice of these external shifts. I believe we will need to work hard to create students who are not only “college ready” but also ready and able to continue to learn, grow and change, long after the successful completion of college.
I was taught to work hard and play by the rules. It’s still a good start. It’s just no longer enough. My kids, and your kids, will need much more to compete in the global world. I’m a bit scared by this, and at the same time very energized by this. At no time in history was education more important than it is today. But….we need to meet the challenge. Schools need to step up and meet it, parents need to engage their children and their schools to meet it, and communities must commit to make education a priority.
In Worthington Schools we’re raising the bar by implementing the common core curriculum while continuing to focus on building meaningful relationships and the 4C’s of 21st century learning: Communication, Critical Thinking, Collaboration and Creativity. We better do this well, Estonia’s coming!