The World Is Flat

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to attend a session by Thomas Friedman, journalist and Pulitzer Prize winning author of “The World is Flat” and “Hot, Flat and Crowded.” He talked about the convergence of technology, how the “dot.com” boom wired the world and the international competition that is now unfolding before our eyes.

He talked about how globalization has progressed from countries to companies to individuals. He talked about education, our need to nurture the right brain, how the arts help to develop creativity and the mental agility to synthesize, and our need to teach our students how to connect, collaborate and compete in a flat world.

For years, we believed that everything will be alright as long as we learn the basics — reading, writing, arithmetic. But to thrive in today’s world, a flat world, knowing the basics is no longer enough. The factory model of teaching and learning does not cut it anymore.

I think back to my days as a student when memorization was the key. A forgotten or wrong answer would likely get you a ruler across the knuckles. Fear of failure was instilled in us by both our teachers and our parents. It was not OK to deviate from the plan. Independent thinking and creativity was not always looked upon as a positive trait. Following the rules and memorizing the facts may have gotten us an “A” on a test, but it took a whole lot more to really succeed.
 
Watching kids today, I see many who are enjoying a learning experience very different than mine. They are learning the basics, but they are also learning that being creative is something to be rewarded, not squelched. They, and their teachers, subscribe to Nintendo logic — trial, error and discovery. They have learned how to generate new ideas, collaborate on projects and compete in a flat world.

It makes me cringe when I hear we need to go back to the basics. The world has changed, global competition has changed, students have changed. If we want our students to be successful, education must adapt to these changing demands. Teach the basics, but teach the arts. Encourage trial and error, creativity and collaboration, and give our students the tools they need to succeed in today’s world — not yesterday’s world.

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