Fix the Schools…Fix the WorldWade Phelps
By Hal Eisenberg
Young people of today have the skills and the smarts to handle the world they inherit. But they don’t have the essential confidence in their vision and potential. Without empowerment, they cannot do their best work. This means it’s time to change our schools, change our communities and change our minds. Youth are the Leaders of today…not tomorrow!
Let’s get one thing straight. Youth can make a difference and I have been watching and empowering youth do so for the past 15 years. The problem we have is that this simple fact is not universally adopted; therefore my opinion is limited to a narrow-minded and micro level viewpoint.
On a larger nationwide scale, the Google Generation is not equipped for the challenges of today and something must be done about it. How can we globally inspire and empower youth, universally mandate a movement of empowerment, and innovatively make achieving the MDG’s the “in thing” and “moral thing” to attain?
Where does the problem begin?
Working in a school system for 8 years in America, I have found many systems surrounding our youth to be disempowering. Witnessing good intentions from youth become squashed by educators, as well as these developing minds being taught “the problem is too big” left me shocked and concerned for the future of our youth. With this mindset what is the collateral effect on their families, our communities, nation and ultimately the world? Is this even being contemplated by our local and world leaders?
I watched daily as the focus of education weighs heavily on passing standardized tests, forced memorization, and just a regurgitation of textbook facts. Youth seem to become verse on how they may work their way through the system and get out of school as soon as possible. Does this create the intellectual leaders we need to achieve the goals of our world? Sadly, I find that youth just want to run home and escape this monotony by getting lost in a video game, or web surfing aimlessly. When does the real thinking and problem solving begin?
Fix the schools…fix the world
Should the goal of schools be to make sure everyone can get a 100 on a test? Should schools be focused on the monetary gains for high grades or should they be focused on empowering youth to be world thinkers, personal achievers, and grounded in creating a road map to personal goals? How did we get to the point we are at now?
In 1924, H.L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury that the aim of public education is not “to fill the young of species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence…nothing could be further from the truth. The aim… is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States.” Can we not see the correlation of this form of education since 1924 and the problems we face in society today?
There needs to be a shift in what is possible for youth in the areas of leadership, empowerment, self-esteem, school performance and career planning; a shift from disempowerment, differences and indecision to possibility, tolerance and opportunity. This is the mission statement of the non-profit agency that I founded, Windows of Opportunity, Inc. http://www.wooinc.org. This agency has a history of designing and delivering successful innovative empowerment programs and workshops for youth that develop their leadership skills from various platforms.
This is a global conversation we must begin to have immediately. Programs such as these must be created and adopted worldwide. Then you will see a larger shift towards achieving the goals of the MDG.
I am technologically challenged in that I cannot figure out what the latest buttons or touch screens do, and if a message of some sort pops up out of nowhere I am frozen by my computer ignorance. However, almost all youth I have worked with today can use these contraptions with an ease that dumbfounds me. Yet, it is very apparent to me that this generation is not using their technology savvy to their advantage. If youth are taught and fueled by inspiration, critical thinking, passion and faith, then technology would benefit mankind. Our youth will figure out how this will happen. We must trust and give them the opportunity to do so.
I hope that this becomes a reality one day as what I currently see in the eyes of our youth is often a look of fear, confusion, helplessness and despair. Youth are dropping out of schools at a rapid and unacceptable rate, or graduating without a clue to who they are or what they want to do. If youth are to be the leaders of today and have the capacity for deep analytical thought and problem solving, our education system must become grounded as an empowerment based system; with the sole intent to have youth learn the answers to the following three philosophical questions. Who are you? What do you stand for? How will you transform that into society?
Some questions to discuss:
What are some of the strategies necessary to change education in our country?
How can technology inspire youth to become more involved?
What are the challenges in transforming schools to become more empowering sources?