Coronavirus & Global Economy: Time for a Global Pivot?

Coronavirus & Global Economy: Time for a Global Pivot?

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Coronavirus & Global Economy: Time for a Global Pivot?

The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is rapid and the non-unified response is obliterating economies worldwide.  In the past we have had economic crises that spawned emotional reactions, however, this time we had an emotional reaction that has spawned an economic crisis. The lack of clear information and global leadership fueled a panic and even today we lack clarity on the best way to prevail.  With so many countries testing different strategies, perhaps we, as a global society (if such a thing still exists after this), will be better prepared next time.  

I write this today while stranded in Chile where the borders are now closed, a curfew is in effect, schools and restaurants are closed until at least May, social distancing is being advised and largely followed, and full lockdown seems imminent.  My friends in Italy tell me that their crisis is largely spreading within hospitals and hospice centers among patients with other comorbid diseases, and that healthcare workers are largely the carriers spreading it from one patient to another. France is in total lockdown indefinitely, declaring war on the invisible enemy.  And in the world’s two greatest democracies, India--which has a much smaller total number and growth rate of virus cases compared to the USA--has banned its 1.3 billion citizens from leaving their homes for 21 days to contain the spread, while the USA seems to be heading toward lifting restrictions and letting the virus run its natural course through the population. Even if our lives may not be at stake, our livelihoods most certainly are.

At the time of the writing of this article, over 459,000 people worldwide have been infected with the Coronavirus, with at least 20,000 confirmed fatalities according to Worldometers on 03/25/2020.  Nearly all States in the U.S. have now declared a State of Emergency as well (Business Insider). Businesses have had no choice but to cancel or, at a minimum, postpone many of their conferences and conventions, as well as other business travel and ventures. South by Southwest (SXSW), one of the largest conferences in the US with an attendance of over 400,000 last year, announced the cancellation of their March 2020 event (New York Times). Several of my keynote events have been postponed and my flights from Chile have been cancelled, leaving me stranded for an undetermined amount of time due to the closed borders and airline cutbacks (see New York Times). As a result, just about everyone will have to pivot.

Decentralization and democratization of knowledge is the future

I frequently lecture on the future of work, how technology and AI influences the job market, and why and how education must pivot in order to prepare youth for a global tomorrow.  Is such a message still relevant? Do I need to pivot as well?

I believe that technology will play an even larger role in our lives going forward as we are less likely to catch a communicable disease from a robot than from a human.  Today, private music teachers (my former profession) are forced to give lessons to students online and despite their resistance previously, students and teachers are discovering the benefits and shortcomings of this. The same is true with school students and teachers who are desperately trying to navigate best practices and are surely bound to discover them (see below where I have created a Think Tank for educators to share best practices).  Universities under fire for exorbitant tuition that has created an epidemic of outstanding student loans may soon realize that future applicants will opt to learn online at a proportional cost. As I always tell my audiences, decentralization and democratization of knowledge is the future. However, I may have miscalculated on the timing, as it has just become the present, globally.

I am a proponent of globalization as I believe in the modern age we are most resourceful as a global community--culturally, educationally,  economically, and environmentally. But the rapid spread of COVID-19 and worldwide discrepancies on how to manage it may suggest that we are safer and more prosperous within borders and preserving the right to choose within whose borders each of us wants to be in. The world travel that I have enjoyed, benefited from immensely, and still believe is the single greatest form of education may no longer be so accessible going forward.

United Airlines was the first U.S. carrier to cut domestic flight service amid fear the virus would cause ticket sales to dwindle, according to this article from the New York Times.  The latest is that American Airlines plans to cut domestic flights by 30% and global flights by 75% for April, with more cuts expected for May. They are also on a hiring freeze through June.  Since fear over the virus took root, United and American Airlines shares have lost a third of their value, with Delta Airlines also experiencing a tumultuous downward trend.  Italy has a complete ban on travel imposed through April 3rd, 2020 on its 60 million citizens. According to the South China Morning Post, two thirds of domestic China flights have been cancelled, with remaining flights selling for as little as $4.00 USD per ticket. The ripple effect on travel means that hotel bookings and restaurant dining are going to suffer significant losses.

Any possible resurrection will ultimately be driven by demand and not curtailed by restriction (hopefully), but emotions and fear are often harder to overturn than regulations.  As a result of the Coronavirus, airlines have taken the biggest hit seen since the attacks on September 11th, 2001 (New York Times). However, as we saw in the travel rebound since 9/11, time will likely be healing and business will return to normal if the impact of COVID-19 can be quickly contained.

Environmentally, the closure of borders appears to be revealing positive results thanks to the containment of many things economic and viral that impact a nation’s citizens.  We may be falling forward into a previous time--one in which we are more aware of our footprint, opportunity, and responsibility to the planet. With Venice canals hosting fish for the first time in ages (BBC) and smog over China vanishing, it makes one ask if actually humans are the virus and COVID-19 is the vaccine. How ironic would it be if we close borders in the name of nationalism but become more environmentally conscious globally?

Steps We can Take to Help

Educators (which today includes parents in more proactive roles) are at a key place of influence at this time. Through education, preparation and action, educators can have a positive impact.  With many school districts considering partial closures or moving to online delivery, educators need to prepare for alternative education methods. One example of innovation in this area is “PE with Joe”, recently developed and launched by YouTube Fitness Instructor Joe Wicks.  He’s taken it upon himself to create and deliver weekday PE routines for students to do at home. The 9 am daily routine has already attained millions of views from families in the US and UK (CNN).

Taking the classroom online is something educators need to be prepared to do, and something I have tried to facilitate through Ravi Unites Schools.  Our interactive “field trips” show how powerful technology is in creating cultural competence when travel is not always an option. This week I have taken it a step further and created a  Think Tank to help share best practices. All educators and administrators from around the world are not only welcome, but encouraged to join. The world is in this together, and education is the engine that drives us toward a solution...not just for times of COVID-19 quarantine, but for the impact today will have on tomorrow. The more questions all of us ask and more solutions all of us share, more students will benefit.

If you are an educator or administrator, please join TEACHING UNDER COVID-19, A RAVI UNITES SCHOOLS THINK TANK:  LinkedIn Group.

(if you have any issues with that link, copy and paste this URL in your browser to access the Group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13843536/ )

 

Ravi is available for keynote speaking how education must pivot for cultural competence & equity

Ravi is available for keynote speaking how education must pivot for cultural competence & equity

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We had two Realtime Audio-Video Interactions scheduled with Shanti Bhavan in India: one with Bethel Elementary School in Virginia and another with Londonderry Middle School in New Hampshire.  All of these schools are currently closed due to COVID-19 and these interactions will be rescheduled for later in the year.

If you or your organization would like to learn more about becoming a strategic partner of Ravi Unites Schools, please send an email to connect@raviunitesschools.com.  Meanwhile, we will still be setting up interactions as we are able.

Other News and Announcements

Be sure to check out Ravi's daily "Minute to Pivot" video series. You can subscribe to it on his YouTube channel by clicking here, or visit any one of his social media pages @RaviUnites.

Ravi recently gave a keynote to the Virginia ASCD association at their annual conference.  It was very well received and he followed that up with a school convocation at Gloucester Virginia public schools.

A number of school districts have inquired about online convocations.  If you are interested in having Ravi deliver your 2020 or 2021 school convocation keynote, please send us a message through our contact page, https://raviunties.com/contact/.

Why Travel is the Best Educational Investment

Why Travel is the Best Educational Investment

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Why Travel is the Best Educational Investment

Traveling to other nations is ultimately the best education money can buy.  Whether through internships, a semester abroad, taking a gap year, or class trips, getting out of the classroom is key to learning essential life skills that only exist in the real world.  Travel is the type of learning that comes only by getting up and going because it’s not contained in the pages of textbooks or within the walls of a classroom. It offers skill development and learned competencies in a number of important areas.  

An article by the WYSE Travel Confederation published results from a survey conducted by The Wagner Group entitled, “Travel Improves Educational Attainment and Future Success.”  Four hundred adults who had taken an educational trip between the ages of 12-18 were surveyed, and the results conclude that:

  • 80% of participants said their educational travel experience sparked greater interest in what they were learning in school.
  • Over half of the participants received better grades as a result of their travel experience.
  • Adults who took education trips in their youth earned 12% more than their non-trip-going counterparts.
  • 57% of those who traveled as children went away to college.

The proof that educational travel is beneficial to children and young adults is evident. Therefore, let’s talk about the skills obtained through travel education that make it so vital to setting up our younger generations for success.

5 Key Skills Acquired through Travel Education

Travel education helps people grow, evolve, and mature in a number of areas including:

  • Experiential learning - In this article I explain that learning through experience is vital to equip our children for the real world.  This is something our schools are currently lacking.

  • Problem-solving skills - Being in a foreign country forces one to be creative and resourceful when in a pinch. There will be new situations forcing one to solve problems and find solutions which helps develop critical life skills.

  • Cross-cultural competence - The ability to effectively communicate with other cultures without bias, confusion, or fear is a vital skill needed in today’s real world, especially in a melting pot like the United States.  By traveling, we are placed in settings that enable us to broaden our capacity to relate well with people of different backgrounds and experiences.

  • Empathy - Visiting other nations helps one understand that their way of looking at the world is not the only way, and there is space to include each individual’s perspective on life.

  • Adapting to change - Overcoming culture shock is a lesson in adapting to an environment. Whether you know the native language, find yourself lost in a strange place, or don’t know a single soul, time spent in another nation teaches a major life lesson one cannot learn in books or school: the capacity to adapt to change. 

Tips and Tales of Education Ventures Abroad

For many US citizens, simply getting into Canada can be a harrowing experience.  I’m not joking, as that is possibly the border that I fear most (other than perhaps coming home to the USA which often feels more like an interrogation).  The intense questioning and scrutiny is an educational experience for sure. An American colleague in Iraq once told me not to worry about getting into Kurdistan. He said it was like walking into Canada.  From my experience, Kurdistan was much easier than Canada, and so was China, India, and even Russia.  Granted, many of these countries require you to get a visa which can be an ordeal, but once through the red tape, the world truly is your oyster.

But taking Kurdistan as an example, if you are a woman tourist where only 10% of the people seen in public are women (and most of them are veiled), it can be a very intimidating experience.  Just by entering this context as an outsider, potentially aggressive or at least uncomfortable situations for a woman could arise.   This is a good example of the importance of doing one’s homework in advance so that one can be culturally competent upon entering.  The situation can be very daunting if you don't understand it, but it can be a greatest experience if you are open to it and aware of the context. The point is to always take common sense precautions and do your research, but not be overly cautious and forego a once-in-a-lifetime cultural learning opportunity.

Mumbai, Moscow, and Tokyo

I recall walking down the streets of Mumbai, Moscow, and Tokyo.  In all of these places, I could barely communicate in the local languages but at least India has the benefit of English being the official language (leftover from the days of British colonization). It is widely spoken until you get off the beaten track, and getting off the beaten track is exactly the point.  In these cities and others, I always leave my hotel without a map, pick a direction, and walk. I not only don’t mind getting lost, but that is actually my objective.  Without fail, someone always notices when I am lost before I have gained the courage to ask for help. A stranger with whom I cannot communicate using words finds another way to express compassion, such as through intonation of the voice, a smile in the eyes, and other elements of humanity that leads me back to my hotel.  It never fails, and each time restores my faith in humanity.

Safety Precautions

One must be aware of risks and the potential to be taken advantage of as a tourist.  Be careful with money and do your research on local customs and known schemes (such as the Turkish woman on the streets of Paris asking if you speak english and wanting you to sign a petition...all while someone else picks your pocket!). This preparation can help you navigate in that context and is a good learning process that can help you evaluate other environments and different contexts, including entering a new employment situation. It just heightens your awareness and evaluation abilities.  In most parts of the world, you are only an Uber ride away from being saved if you do get too far off track.  So, make sure you are connected via mobile device and then forget you have that lifeline unless in danger.

When Traveling Abroad isn’t an Option

Not every family can afford to send their child on the semester abroad program or take an extended family vacation to Europe.  However, a family’s financial status need not stop someone from receiving the benefits and learning opportunities associated with different cultures. That is why I created Ravi Unites Schools --a program I host that enables classrooms around the world to connect to cultivate cultural competence through peer-to-peer learning.  These virtual field trips are viable alternatives to traveling overseas when leaving home simply is not an option.

The Best Education Money Can Buy


Traditional education does not have the full capacity to teach our younger generations the five paramount life skills needed to succeed in the real world: Experiential learning, problem-solving, cross-cultural competence, empathy, and adaptation to change.  But travel does. These skills are learned in-depth through experiences of travel education. If you want to give your child (or yourself) the gift that keeps on giving, get them enrolled in a semester abroad program and start planning your family’s next summer vacation to a foreign land.  

Ravi is available for keynote speaking how education must pivot for cultural competence & equity

Ravi is available for keynote speaking how education must pivot for cultural competence & equity

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We have had an overwhelming number of new members join the Ravi Unites Schools network the past quarter.  It has come to the point where the model needs to pivot in order to best serve all members and enable more students worldwide to interact.  So, we are now looking into corporate sponsorships to help us elevate the platform to become self sufficient with a support team that can manage it.

If you or your organization would like to learn more about becoming a strategic partner of Ravi Unites Schools, please send an email to connect@raviunitesschools.com.  Meanwhile, we will still be setting up interactions in the capacity in which we are able.

Other News and Announcements

Be sure to check out Ravi's daily "Minute to Pivot" video series. You can subscribe to it on his YouTube channel by clicking here, or visit any one of his social media pages @RaviUnites.

Ravi recently gave a keynote to the Virginia ASCD association at their annual conference.  It was very well received and he followed that up with a school convocation at Gloucester Virginia public schools. Next month he will be giving the opening keynote for the North Carolina Association of School Administrators annual conference,

A large number of school districts have inquired about convocations.  If you are interested in having Ravi deliver your 2020 or 2021 school convocation keynote, please send us a message through our contact page, https://raviunties.com/contact.

Pivot

Find Your Pivot Point & Change Becomes Exciting

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Find Your Pivot Point & Change Becomes Exciting

It is now 2020 and the start of the year is a great time to make changes that you or your organization desires to make.  Some will be small and clear-cut (changing to healthy eating patterns, for instance) while larger changes can be daunting and hard to implement.  

Change is frightening and unsettling for most, but it doesn’t have to be.  If you pivot instead, your confidence, willingness, and potential for success increase exponentially.

What does it mean to pivot?

To pivot means to change fundamental aspects of what you’re doing but maintaining a common thread between where you are and where you are going.  In business, it means changing your product, target audience, or style of execution as explained in this article from Entrepreneur.  It highlights five companies who went from relatively unknown and on the brink of failure to household names and massive success by pivoting.

One example is YouTube.  It began as a dating site where singles could upload short videos of themselves and search for potential mates. As the popularity of video-streaming escalated, YouTube’s founders saw profit potential by pivoting into the video-streaming empire it is today. 

pivot by youtube

In education, to pivot may mean making significant shifts in how we educate.  I’ve written about the need for education to go from cultivating specialists to cultivating “jacks-of-all-trades.”  It will take purposeful change to make this happen and “pivots” can be a great way of framing and defining the axis point from which a positive shift can flourish.

How do you know when to pivot?

In an article from Forbes, 14 Famous Business Pivots, contributor Jason Nazar states, “The most critical decision for an entrepreneur is to know when to stay the course vs. change direction.”  For the founders of YouTube, the rising popularity of video-streaming led them to pivot from their dating site roots and position themselves to become the multi-billion-dollar empire eventually acquired by Google.

As a pilot, I compare pivoting to charting a plane’s course to its destination and constantly making adjustments in the air as needed.  When the environment changes, you change course and may need to land at an alternate airport. The same can be said for pivoting. As information, technology, and trends change, and as our wealth of experiences continue to grow, our plan of action must also change which may lead us to an alternate destination. Where would the music industry be had they not (eventually!) embraced digital downloads and online streaming?  Those who did not pivot or waited too long lost market share while new companies that adjusted grew and succeeded.

Recently, I did an interview for John Tesh’s iHeart Media podcast, Intelligence for Your Life.  I typically do mainstream radio interviews so a podcast was a bit of a departure.  However, this more relaxed and extended opportunity to explore ideas in a conversational manner was very liberating for me.  

The theme is, of course, PIVOT.  However, we drilled it down in so many directions that it organically produced something that I haven’t thought much about in the past: the importance of finding your “Pivot Point”—the common thread or primary strength and experiences that one has that can be redirected in the most unpredictable of ways.  My pivot point has always been my passion, experience and skills in music. I implement them in different ways by combining it with a business mindset and social skills. This “pivot point” has united every project and industry in which I have worked even though to others they may appear very disconnected.

In this interview, I discuss the two scenarios when one should pivot: out of necessity and out of opportunity. You can listen to it here

How to find your Pivot Point(s)?

It is important to go further to help you pivot.  The success of finding one’s pivot point can and must be implemented regardless of whether you are an individual, brand, or industry.  

For example: 

  • Individual: Richard Branson has long been one of my role models as we share passion for music, aviation, and philanthropy.  His sense of adventure and willingness to take risks is his pivot point which allows for a broad range of opportunities. Even his brand name, “Virgin,” expresses his quest to always be the first to do something.
  • Brand: Apple’s pivot point is being cool and trendsetting. From a brand recognition perspective, their usage of the lower-case “i”, for example, is also a pivot point that unites products even though they are sometimes independent of other products (though more often they can “talk” to each other).  For example, the iPod, iPhone, iWatch, iTunes, etc.
  • Industry: The music industry pivoted from selling durable goods (records, CD’s, cassette tapes, etc.) to consumable goods (streaming, subscription services).  The pivot point is the distribution of audio and video content (not necessarily the creation of it, as we see so much independent music now being distributed).  It is also not pivoting (or circling) back to physical product such as vinyl records for a more “premium” experience and nostalgic market.

As you brainstorm and plan your 2020 strategy, whether as an individual, brand, or industry, don’t try to change.  Instead, find your pivot point and PIVOT. 

Please feel free to share your thoughts below and together we will find solutions.

Ravi can help you and your organization pivot and reach the next level

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We have had an overwhelming number of new members join the Ravi Unites Schools network the past quarter.  It has come to the point where the model needs to pivot in order to best serve all members and enable more students worldwide to interact.  So, we are now looking into corporate sponsorships to help us elevate the platform to become self sufficient with a support team that can manage it.

If you or your organization would like to learn more about becoming a strategic partner of Ravi Unites Schools, please send an email to connect@raviunitesschools.com.  Meanwhile, we will still be setting up interactions in the capacity in which we are able.

Other News and Announcements

Ravi recently gave a keynote to the Virginia ASCD association at their annual conference.  It was very well received, with a large number of school districts inquiring about convocations.  Since Ravi is a Virginia resident and he has both a vested interest and smaller travel costs in-state, he is offering steep discounts to Virginia schools.  Of course, he will also do what he can for those outside of the state as well because education matters and we must put students first.  If you are interested in having Ravi deliver your 2020 school convocation keynote, please send us a message through our contact page, https://raviunties.com/contact.

 

To learn where Ravi will be speaking next or to view current special offers, please visit the lower portion of the website home page here.

Jack-Of-All-Trades Are in Demand & Skill Sets Must Pivot

Jack-Of-All-Trades Are in Demand & Skill Sets Must Pivot

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Jack-Of-All-Trades Are in Demand & Skill Sets Must Pivot

While Millennials and Generation Z are proficient in some skills required for career and life, they must broaden their scope in order to adapt to the ever-changing demands in the workplace.

To diversify and be the kind of worker currently in demand, they must pivot from having an I-shaped skill set to becoming T-shaped workers. I-shapers have expertise and knowledge related to a specific area such as engineering while T-shapers have those skills plus are able to think more broadly while collaborating more effectively with others with different expertise.  I think of it as Individual versus Team, and the latter requires the proverbial “soft skills.”

T-Shaped Workers

Ernest Wilson, former dean of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism, published research in a 2015 Harvard Business Review article concluding that the five “soft skill” attributes forming the “T” were adaptability, cultural competence, 360-degree thinking, intellectual curiosity, and empathy. 

Jack-Of-All-Trades Are in Demand & Skill Sets Must Pivot

In a more recent Wall Street Journal article, Irving Wladawsky-Berger noted the shift in worker profile that the U.S. Navy wants on their modern ships.  He states that crew size has been reduced significantly and the need for “jacks-of-all-trades” has increased. They are not specialists in a field but at applying information across fields.  In articulating the growth in demand for T-shaped workers, Wladawsky-Berger draws this conclusion regarding limitations of I-shaped workers:

“Hard skills tend to be deep but narrow. Their half-life is getting shorter. The more specific and concrete the skills, the more they are prone to be automated or significantly transformed by advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, making it necessary for workers to be flexible enough to keep adapting to the continuing changes in the workplace."

National School Boards Attributes the Gap to Less Work Experience

Thomas Gentzel, Executive Director and CEO of The National School Boards Association, tells the Comcast National Newsmakers Team in an interview about Bridging the Workplace Skills Gap, “About 40 years ago, almost 6 out of every 10 teenagers had some kind of a job - a part-time job, a summer job. Today, it’s just a little over 1 out of 3.  So fewer and fewer students actually have the experience of working even part-time and then acquiring those soft skills as a result. So, this is something we have to focus on to make sure that they’re well prepared to be successful, to be life ready, as we say, when they graduate high school.”

In my keynotes, I often tell the story of my first job at age 13 earning minimum wage.  It was during my parents’ divorce and my mother wanted me out of our unstable home as much as possible.  She got me a job changing flat tires at the local bicycle store where I had to interact with co-workers, customers, and a boss who were all much older than me. I believe that this experience provided the needed skills to become an entrepreneur before I graduated high school and build a career fueled by my passions.

Our shortage of T-shaped workers among Millennials and Gen Z can partly be attributed to the lack of educational focus on soft skills and the lessening of real-life work experience.  As pointed out in the article above, the decline in high school students holding any kind of job is significant and is now contributing to this gap. Where real life experience has dropped, schools not increasing this focus is creating a chasm.

Currently, traditional high school education focuses on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) but doesn’t teach the “T” skills such as adaptability, cultural competence, 360-degree thinking, stimulating curiosity and empathy.

Fixing the Gap

So, how do we fix the gap and prepare youth to become T-shaped workers?

As mentioned in my earlier post, “How Cross-Cultural Competence Impacts Workplace Culture and Effectiveness,” groups once considered minorities will together make up at least 52% of the country’s population by 2050.  Our younger generations must be equipped to interact with people of all ethnic backgrounds and cultures in order to thrive in the workplace. To do this, education must teach active listening capabilities, people interaction skills, flexibility, and emotional intelligence.

Students must also develop 360-degree thinking. Data triangulation is a great method of developing this kind of thinking--consulting three or more resources to best grasp a full view of a topic by evaluating different perspectives. This increases the validity of findings and leads to a broader understanding of issues. With our current polarizing viewpoints, developing this soft skill is imperative for the workplace.

This must then fold into civil discourse which is also a learnable skill. As I have noted in the past, here are three ways we can teach students to engage in productive dialogue and express empathy versus hostility.  The capacity for empathy and the ability to express it is a social skill severely lacking in what Chris Lundberg, assistant professor of rhetoric at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, refers to as a “society of incivility.”  If we want our youth to succeed and become the T-shaped workers our workforce requires, we must increase experiential learning to overcome the lack of real-world experience and further focus on soft skills development. That is what is needed to help them to thrive, pivot,  and always be in-demand. 

So let’s engage in some civil discourse.  Please feel free to share your thoughts below and together we will find solutions.

Ravi can help you and your organization pivot and reach the next level

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We have had an overwhelming number of new members join the Ravi Unites Schools network this past quarter.  It has come to the point where the model needs to pivot in order to best serve all members and enable more students worldwide to interact.  So, we are now looking into corporate sponsorships to help us elevate the platform to become self sufficient with a support team that can manage it.  If you or your organization would like to learn more about becoming a strategic partner of Ravi Unites Schools, please send an email to connect@raviunitesschools.com.  Meanwhile, we will still be setting up interactions in the capacity in which we are able.

Other News and Announcements

Ravi recently gave a keynote to the Virginia ASCD association at their annual conference.  It was very well received, with a large number of school districts inquiring about convocations.  Since Ravi is a Virginia resident and he has both a vested interest and smaller travel costs in-state, he is offering steep discounts to Virginia schools.  Of course, he will also do what he can for those outside of the state as well because education matters and we must put students first.  If you are interested in having Ravi deliver your 2020 school convocation keynote, please send us a message through our contact page, https://raviunties.com/contact.

 

To learn where Ravi will be speaking next or to view current special offers, please visit the lower portion of the website home page here.

It’s Time to Pivot! How Small Shifts in Education can Change the World

It's Time to Pivot! How Small Shifts in Education can Change the World

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education pivot

There is a belief today that more time in school will improve education. However, the learning process of young minds involves much more than time spent in classrooms, and quality of education should be measured by more than test results. As noted in my post, "The US Education System is Broken, or is it?" school's primary purpose is not educating children, but preparing them to be educated by the world as lifelong learners.

The purpose of school needs to be providing necessary tools and experiences to be successful in an increasingly complex, inter-connected, and globalized world. The tools and skills that students learn must help them interact with and navigate diverse socio-economic environments in which they will find themselves. A truly educated person is able to engage the communities of which they will one day become leaders, and not simply able to score well on classroom tests.

Small, intentional “pivots” within our education system will more successfully prepare students for life.  Moreover, we need to teach students how to pivot as they will live longer lives with the need for multiple adaptations in response to global changes.  My own pivot process includes using previously accumulated skills and contacts to change course as needed or when greater opportunities present themselves (or can be created). 

Shifts that make a difference

Funding for Equity

The US education system is producing average students according to PISA (Programme for International Students Assessment). However, these statistics change drastically among schools with less than 25% of students on Free and Reduced Lunch. These schools demonstrate that non-impoverished young Americans are performing at the top of the global spectrum. 

Students in low-income areas attend schools that are often congested, understaffed, and lack the full-range of tools needed for learning in those socioeconomic environments. Generally, students attending low-income public schools receive lower quality education, not necessarily because the educators lack skills but because of the larger needs and disbursement of resources beyond the classroom (psychological counseling, food, etc.).  

Current public school funding is based on enrollment numbers. However, public schools in affluent communities are better able to direct funds toward programs that build “cultural capital.” Efforts toward creating equity suggest that such allocations should be reappropriated on a need basis. Low-income areas need more funding for counsellors, psychologists, transportation, and after school programs for struggling students.

Title 1 Funding

Similar to the above, we need not only to increase funding but shift and expand funding to combat poverty which ultimately burdens US schools in comparison to other industrialized nations. In a recent radio interview I did with WVON "Talk of Chicago" we discussed former Vice President Joe Biden's current plan for education.  It is a "pivot" from where he was as recently as 2015, with a call today for massive increases in funding for low-income schools and significant expansion of resources for families, including extended pre-k and dedicated counselors and psychologists in public schools (something that has been cut over the years and now falls on already overburdened teachers who are not and shouldn’t need to be experts in mental illness or psychology).

Regardless of whether we agree with Biden or Democrats in general, we can hopefully agree that teachers need to be equipped and supported to better address factors that impact students outside the classroom and provide more holistic resources.  

Cultural Competence

Parents have the right to exercise school choice. However, this leads to segregation, whereby black American and Hispanic students often end up in low-income area public schools. Parents’ financial status often plays a determining role in which school students attend. Low-income families cannot afford transportation costs to far away schools, nor can they afford school lunch in schools not providing it for free. 

However, even high income families pay a price for self-selected segregation. Cultural capital does not equal cultural competence, and in an age of Artificial Intelligence where according to Price Waterhouse Coopers, 38% of jobs will be automated in a decade from now, “college and career-ready” may become less relevant than being “community-ready.”  The opportunity in cross-socioeconomic and cross-cultural collaboration will be what moves a nation forward.

Education systems need to pivot and focus on uniting students from diverse cultures and backgrounds. Unifying different groups will lead to better interactions between different people in the future.  We must teach cultural competence through instruction and experience so that youth have the skills to interact in a diverse world.  This would enable them to develop core values that seek to unite and provide collaborative decisions versus a mindset that alienates and divides.

Shorter school days

More time in the classroom will not produce a better educated or more prepared life-long learner who is capable of absorbing the lessons of the world.  Instead, students need more time to apply their education while receiving it; they need more time to interact with friends, neighbors, community, and family in order to truly learn life skills. Moreover, a little boredom enables the discovery of passion and hobbies, the development of creativity, and the opportunity for internships and co-curricular activities that provide real-world learning benefits for life. 

A good education system has four key players: society and global community, teachers, parents,  and students themselves. A system that primarily focuses on classroom instruction instead of engaging all players is flawed. Tools such as homework only reach their full potential when parents are encouraged to do it alongside their children to create family engagement--a child doing homework in solitude fosters resentment for education, and the classroom itself is where students should be collaborating (not through homework).  Well-rounded students will be developed from plans, funding, and intentional environments that foster learning through interactions within all arenas. 

With such pivots, I believe we can provide a truly “world-class” education and prepare students who will change the world.  Please email me and let me know your thoughts.

 

To learn where Ravi will be speaking next or to view current special offers, please visit the lower portion of the website home page here.

Bring Ravi To Your Next Event

Ravi Unites Schools Update

Keep an eye on your inbox as we will soon be announcing two global opportunities in August/September for your students to connect with peers in Chile and India.  If the age range is a match for you and you are a Ravi Unites Schools member, you will receive an email with a link on how to apply for these opportunities (each opportunity will come in a separate email and with a separate application).  There will be a deadline to apply, so be sure to open the email as soon as you receive it.

Latest News & Updates

"Songwriting Safari" in Chile

Do not miss this opportunity!  A “Songwriting Safari” in Chile
February 21-March 1, 2020.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to collaborate with songwriters from multiple cultures and backgrounds under the guidance of Ravi Hutheesing, former member of three-time Grammy Award nominee, Hanson.  You will write at least three songs with hands-on instruction from Ravi and his award-winning songwriting teaching method, 1-2-3 Songwriting, as well as learn from carefully selected well-known guest instructors.  By participating in this unique ten-day workshop, you will create timeless songs, build global friendships and memorable artistic collaborations, and discover how you can use your talents to change the world.

Learn more here: Songwriting Safari in Chile 2020

The Power of the Arts in School to Create Peace

The Power of Arts in School to Foster Peace

ravi-unites-songwriting
Songwriting retreat in Erbil, Iraq

The arts are an integral part of any school curriculum and have positive impact on not just students, but entire communities. In all my years as a professional musician, music teacher, education keynote speaker, and creator of arts-based programs that bring together people from traditionally opposed cultures and religions, I strongly believe the arts are significant enough to have a real influence on progressive social change, such as promoting peace--I frequently witness peace being created before my eyes.

Finding Unity In Diversity

Art programs in schools can encourage students to see cohesion and peace as great themes for songs, poems, and plays. Beyond the constraints imposed by culture and language, the message can resound with art and transcend barriers to promote cross-cultural communication. However, such an agenda need not even be present.  By being a bridge that unites people, arts organically create global citizens who have awareness, appreciation, and tolerance for the culture of others. The cultural competence inculcated and strengthened within art-based school programs reveals itself in everyday interactions by fostering good relationships, empathy for others, and safe contexts with which to experiment without fearing failure.  As Michelangelo said, “It’s better to aim high and miss than to aim low and succeed.”

On the other hand, cultural ignorance and intolerance inform stereotypes and fear, and breed conflict. As I sometimes say in my keynotes, “We don’t need to teach kids cultural competence; we need to unteach them cultural incompetence.”  Kids are naturally artistic but our society begins to erode their creative spirit and open-mindedness. Art programs ensure that learners from an early age maintain their curiosity, develop empathy, and embrace diversity while finding commonalities that exist within diverse groups.

Cultivating Empathy

Music and other arts deliver an emotive message in a way that words cannot. A song like John Lennon’s “Imagine” which exposes the horror of conflict by painting a picture of unity will be etched in the minds of those who hear it more than just hearing a news update. With that memory, those who hear the song will be moved to do what they can within their spheres of influence to change the situation. Emotions prompt actions.  Art in its various forms evokes the kind of emotions such as empathy that compels one to take measured risks and jump into action as they do their part to create peace.

Healing Art

Music and other forms of art are also therapeutic and healing (The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature). Entire civilizations carry the emotional scars of traumatic events. Without proper healing, these are the same people who are likely to retaliate at the slightest provocation. The cycle of hurt and destruction will only go on, hurting any chances at real, lasting peace.

I have witnessed this personally, first when I launched my initial intercultural songwriting retreat in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2016 (Music can Unite the World). The two-week songwriting retreat saw 16 strangers from ASEAN nations collaborate and write a total of twelve songs in twelve days. They also performed at Jakarta’s U.S. Embassy cultural center, the U.S. Ambassador’s residence, and gave a public concert. Today, the group of Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims still remain close friends and share music online and in person.

Then, when I conducted my intercultural songwriting retreat in Iraq two years ago with Iraqis and Kurds (Iraq: Gaining New Perspectives On Life), I had four Muslim students from Mosul who were released as prisoners of ISIS only a few days before I arrived.  Playing music and involvement in the arts was illegal and punishable under ISIS, so there were young children that had never been exposed to any kind of art. After our two weeks, they could return to a liberated Mosul and use their talent to help rebuild it.  They performed in the streets to help collect books for the library destroyed by ISIS and went into Christian Churches (for the first time in their lives) and played music to bring life back to the houses of worship destroyed by ISIS after using them as classrooms to indoctrinate soldiers. If music can help overcome atrocities this significant, it can help curb violence in the US and unite our increasingly polarized population.

The 2020 Intercultural Songwriting Retreat in Chile

I am launching a new songwriting retreat next February in South America, in collaboration with the Curaumilla Arts Center located near Valparaiso, Chile. I aim to help overcome the rising tensions between the indigenous Mapuche communities and Chileans. The Mapuche Conflict (Wikipedia) arose out of the need for the Mapuche communities living in Chile to reorganize, seek greater autonomy and recognition of their rights, and recover their land. The conflict has increased tensions in the country, which has led to instances of violence and hate. The songwriting retreat will foster an opportunity to build cultural competence and empathy with a broader goal of bringing greater peace to the country.

The Bottom-line

I’ve seen how powerful and effective a location-specific, culturally responsive arts approach can be because of my programs in Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon, and now, Chile (learn more here: https://raviunites.com/songwriting/). Today and going forward, I hope that initiatives like this as well as Ravi Unites Schools (see the latest update below) can foster cultural competence and empathy, and lead to global peace.

Can school art programs play a role in promoting peace? Absolutely.  They do without even trying, and if we cut them back, we are directly working against the goal of creating a peaceful society. The values ingrained in these programs will stay with students and go far beyond the classroom.

Ravi Unites Schools Update

Two “Real-time Audio-Video Interactions” were conducted in May. These were unique because Ravi hosted them “live” at two different schools in Chile and was able to interact and hang out with these bright bilingual Chileans students.

The first was between two International Baccalaureate schools: Wenlock School in Santiago Chile and the MacArthur Middle School in Fort Meade Maryland USA.  Approximately 20 students were one each side of the conversation and discussed everything from the mutual disdain for school food to their concerns about pollution and the environment.  They also discovered that they play the same video games and listen to many of the same musical artists, so they exchanged Instagram ids and plan to share music playlists. See a 10 minute video edit of the 45 minute exchange here: https://youtu.be/gdmaX8o5snU

The second exchange was between The Mackay School in Vina Del Mar, Chile and the Orange Grove Middle School in Tucson Arizona USA.  Also about 20 students on either side of the interaction, both groups shared their recommendations of what to visit when visiting each other’s countries, as well as ways to address global warming.  They too found common interests in games, movies, and music, and like the previous interaction, exchanged instagram accounts to keep the connection going. See a 10 minute video edit of the 45 minute exchange here: https://youtu.be/YvIHrT9temQ

The U.S. Education System is Broken, or is it?

The U.S. Education System is Broken, or is it?

Welcome to this month’s edition of news and updates from Ravi Unites!  In this edition:

Please click on a link above to immediately go to that section.

 

The U.S. Education System is Broken, or is it?

U.S. public education is broken, or at least that is what politicians are telling us. While most statistics actually don’t support this notion, public school systems are being forced more than ever to contend with the school choice movement, and are doing so by implementing everything possible to maintain their enrollment numbers and related funding.  Increased rigor, along with ambitious initiatives from social-emotional to personalized learning to whole-child education, are being woven into the school day. Are we getting to the point where interjecting more educational design might actually be breaking education? Should school be responsible for addressing all aspects of a young person’s development?

The U.S. public education system has its issues, but life will always be the most important teacher. Until we redefine the role of school in our lives, no education system can reach its full potential.

PISA Scores Tell A Tale of Two Cities

When you analyze PISA scores (Programme for International Student Assessment), the latest data shows that U.S. students are average at best. Looking at this alone, one could argue that our system is broken--we should be much better than average. However, when you dissect these scores further and look at schools with fewer than 25% of students on FRLP (Free and Reduced Lunch), the United States jumps right to the top (https://www.turnaroundusa.org/2015-pisa-analysis/).  

It’s not our education system that is broken, it is our society.  We don’t have a public education problem; we have a poverty problem.

Granted, public education must serve all segments of society and hasn’t figured out how to best serve the poor. Poverty is a cycle, and the resources required to effectively break that cycle go beyond what public education should bear when its mandate is to help all students achieve the same results.  No school can be all things to all students, but every school needs to be some things to all students. Basic academics give a strong foundation to all, and schools must also create environments where the entire range of its community is represented. It must foster inclusion and collaboration. The future requires this degree of cultural competence.

I believe the challenge of educating the poor out of poverty needs to be dealt with as a separate but coordinated effort outside of the public school environment.  If we are going to break this cycle, we need a 24/7 mechanism that is either a residential school like Shanti Bhavan with whom I partner in India, or an after-school plus online program that has this focus.  The Los Angeles-based organization Educating Young Minds is an example of the latter. In the USA, I like the after-school model because I still believe that full inclusion in public schools--regardless of race, religion, and socioeconomics--is the only way to properly prepare all students for a globalized future.

Segregation on the Rise

While freedom of choice is as American as apple pie, “school choice” is self-selected segregation.  It may offer parents opportunities and possibilities to help their children acquire the best academic achievement possible, but it sends us backwards in terms of cultural competence and what most of us publicly claim to want: racial and social equality. This can only be accomplished through inclusion and integration.

A 2016 study by the Government Accountability Office concluded that poor, African-American and Hispanic students have been increasingly isolated from their affluent, white peers in charter and magnet schools. The proportion of schools segregated by race and class climbed from 9% in 2001 to 16% in 2014. (https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-345)

A recent USA Today article highlighted the details of this disturbing trend. Despite a history of legal efforts that ban segregated schooling, current “choices” lend themselves to this.  Sadly, this will have the lasting impact of instilling a mindset of segregation in young learners rather than teaching and enabling them to truly learn by interacting in multicultural class settings, and to develop the skills and empathy to be positive agents of change.

Where Education Needs to Shift

A holistic education goes beyond the scope of school.  Within K-12 itself, the academic basics and an inclusive environment with mandatory collaborative activities will set a strong foundation for the education of life. Increasing the length of the school day and the pressure on students and teachers to perform reduces interaction with the outside world where children can simultaneously apply their education.  We must pave the way for greater interaction between children and adults who are neither their parents nor teachers, but have much wisdom to share. Finally, we cannot further deprive families of time together. The family unit, for better or worse, is the primary source of a child’s education and identity. For those families who are less stable or functional, having a child with a strong foundation from school can only be a positive influence on the rest of the family, as long as we make sure that the opportunity for outside positive influence from other adults exists.  

School’s primary purpose is no longer educating children, but rather, preparing them to be educated by the world for the rest of their lives.

I would greatly value your thoughts on this subject, so please feel free to send me an email.  Moreover, if you are a teacher or administrator in education, may I request a maximum of ten minutes of your time and ask you to complete the following survey on these very issues?  Your voice helps inform mine, so please click this link and help me out:

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CK6SDC8

Advisory Board Addition

Ravi Unites, Inc., is pleased to announce the addition of Mary Beth Pelosky to the board.  Mary is an expert in educational policy and leadership, including fellowships with the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL), U.S. State Department/ConSed Brazil Principal Exchange, and George Mason’s Confucius Institute (China). She is also a former public school principal, administrator, and teacher.  

View the entire board here >

Ravi Unites Schools Update

  • On April 30, Ravi will host a very special student interaction between students ages 12-14 Wenlock School in Santiago, Chile and MacArthur Middle School in Fort Meade, Maryland, USA.  Both schools are part of the prestigious International Baccalaureate program.
  • As noted above....we want your input and invite you to take this <10 minute survey about the state of US education.  Your voice helps inform mine, and together we really can make a difference.  Click here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CK6SDC8

 

 

Equity and Access in Education: Our Need to Think Bigger

Welcome to this month’s edition of news and updates from Ravi Unites!  In this edition:

Please click on a link above to immediately go to that section.

 

Equity and Access in Education, Our Need to Think Bigger

Inequity in education remains a hot topic among stakeholders nationally, especially with the recent higher education scandal where wealthy families and well-known television personalities face federal charges of college entrance admission cheating. With figures from recent studies showing that children living in certain parts of the country are less likely to complete secondary education or be admitted to a university, and those from immigrant backgrounds or minority groups (including Native American Indians) are more likely to leave school earlier, something significant must be done.  It is clear there is a serious ongoing problem.

Many articles have been written offering solutions but the situation still exists. We need to go deeper.  We need to reevaluate the core of how our education system functions and is funded.

Here are four important ways to address the issue of equity in education, but let’s first define “equity.”

What is Equity in Education?

The dictionary defines equity as “fairness and impartiality based on the principles of even-handed dealing,” adding that it “involves giving as much consideration, latitude or advantage to one party as is given to the other(s).”

In the context of education, a more relevant definition is provided by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD): “A fair and inclusive system that makes advantages of education accessible to all.”

Equity vs. Equality

The unique differences between equity and equality often cause confusion. Many times they are incorrectly interchanged. While both equity and equality are cornerstones of social justice and fair resource allocation, they are significantly different.

According to the National Association for Multicultural Education, “equality is primarily concerned with treating people the same way or giving them equal access to resources and opportunities.”

Equity is a little different. With equity, focus is on ensuring that everyone receives what they need to be successful – even if it means being unequal across socioeconomic lines. According to the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), equity’s primary concern is “creating school cultures that recognize and value diversity.”

How to Achieve Equity in Education

The OECD lists 10 steps stakeholders can take to achieve equity in education. I've drawn from those steps and narrowed it down to four key areas.

  • Prioritize culturally responsive teaching

In her book: Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain, Zaretta Hammond writes that academic struggles are often attributed to a “culture of poverty” but the real reason for these struggles is the “failure to offer learners sufficient opportunities in the classroom to develop the skills and habits of mind needed to prepare them for more advanced academic tasks.”

Culturally responsive education, or as I call it, "cultural competence," focuses on elevating and expanding learning capacities of students who are traditionally marginalized in the education system, an approach that can go a long way in addressing common challenges associated with cultural incompetence. When we provide traditionally marginalized students with opportunities for high-level thinking, and we also provide all students with training to relate in positive ways with people of different cultural backgrounds, we’re training them to become competitive on the global stage.

  • Provide differentiated instruction, or “personalized learning”

Differentiated instruction essentially means identifying the needs of each student and providing the modalities for learning and challenges that fit those needs. In other words, school systems must provide facilities and environments that are conducive to personalized learning.  This will often mean a change from traditional classroom setups.  Moreover, teachers must plan learning experiences with every student’s needs, interests, styles, and preferences in mind. Just like John Taylor Gatto says in his book: Dumbing Us Down, the Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, “we need to invest in curricula where each child has the opportunity to develop personal uniqueness and self-reliance.”

Data is one tool that can be used in this area. Why? Because people sometimes have perceptions that do not reflect what is actually happening in the school community. Equity-related data can be researched to help educators prepare instruction that benefit all students.

  • Inform the allocation of resources

Stakeholders must also think about how resources, ranging from books provided in classrooms to student funding and school building design and setup, impact equity. Students from low-income families and those of color traditionally require more resources to level the playing field. Those with disabilities, meanwhile, require appropriate infrastructure to overcome their challenges. These groups benefit from additional funding. How we allocate these resources within the classroom, in the school district, and at the national level has a huge impact on educational outcomes.  Programs like Title 1 help us achieve equity, but professional development, which is currently being cut in many states and in the President’s most recent budget proposal, is also critical.

  • Provide and support school choice for all

Why shouldn't school choice be a fundamental right in a free society?  Moreover, having one's education be independent of government funding and therefore independent of potential modern-day indoctrination also seems like a desirable scenario. The idea of school choice, in theory, has great potential to provide equity and accessibility. The Model promotes greater individualized education and less of a sheep-herding approach.  The challenge for successful implementation is that additional barriers musts be recognized and overcome for this to truly be a “choice for all.” One simple example is transportation. Some families simply don’t have the resources to transport the child to and from a distant school. Resources must always be provided to offset this need in public education. As our society advances, we must double down on identifying and removing barriers so that every child is more readily able to reach her highest potential.   

Can diverting public funds to private institutions ultimately lead to equity, and isn't equity fundamental to our strength as a country, or as a species?  In my opinion, those funds should be invested in our public schools in order to provide greater equity in education. Further segregation through school choice--ultimately self-selection segregation--generally reduces diversity; if not done with equity and access in mind and deliberate action, this may ultimately hinder students’ abilities to function in a globalized world.

Key Takeaway

As Gatto writes; “It’s absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that forces you to sit in confinement with people from exactly the same age and social class. Such a system effectively cuts you off from life’s diversity and the associated synergy; indeed, it blocks you from your own past and future.” In the education system, addressing equity at more fundamental and deeper levels is the only solution to this problem.

News & Events:

Britannica “Stand Out” Awards Entry Extended Until April 1st

I am honored to be a judge for Britannica’s first ever “Stand-Out” awards.  We want to hear about the character of students and educators, like you, who have exemplified extraordinary and inspiring characteristics that have helped to make an impact on students and classrooms. There are cash prizes for both students and teachers. Check out the following link to learn more: https://britannicalearn.com/awards/

 

Thoughts from my recent keynote for the Shoshone-Bannock tribe and the Northwest Indian Youth Summit

Lots of thoughts go through my mind.  Young people from Native American groups indigenous to the North American continent suffer from many of the same epidemics that the rest of society suffers from: opioid addiction, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, technology addiction, and so on. On top of that, they face significant racism that is on par with most immigrant populations. Yet ironically, they are not immigrants; they are native to this part of the world.

That brings me to the current discussion about building a wall along the southern border of the United States. I can't help but wonder: if we were to turn back the clock hundreds of years but with the indigenous population having the experience that they have now, would they have built a wall to keep out illegal immigrants (whom we now call "citizens") who stole their land and committed crimes and murders against them?

And then there is the issue of integration: how can the native population celebrate and share their cultures without the majority attempting to silence it?  For example, how alienating it must be that some of the first school year holidays include Columbus Day and Thanksgiving. How do we become more culturally competent in the United States so that we can truly embrace the original founders of our land and make their many heritages something that every student will know more about, appreciate, and celebrate?

April 5th, 2019: Mississippi Association of School Administrators Conference, Biloxi MS

Mississippi’s economy is ranked 49th in the U.S. To help educators and administrators elevate the national standard of education and work toward equity in education, it is as important for me to learn as much from those in Mississippi as I hope they will learn from me. For this reason, I will arrive a day early to listen as state and local leadership address the challenges facing education in their state.  This will help inform my closing keynote on April 5, 2019.

Three Reasons Non-Urban School Districts Need to Increase Cultural Competence and Learn the Positives of Globalization

Welcome to this month’s edition of news and updates from Ravi Unites!  In this edition:

Please click on a link above to immediately go to that section.

Three Reasons Non-Urban School Districts Need to Increase Cultural Competence and Learn the Positives of Globalization

It’s that time again when the calendar flips, we evaluate the past and plan for the future.  The school year in the U.S. follows a different cycle, and regular evaluation and reevaluation in school districts must happen year round; this includes undergoing professional development.

In 2018, I had the privilege to deliver the keynote address for several district-wide convocations. I tend to focus on national and global conferences but was reminded that significant change often happens at the grassroots level, perhaps now more than ever.  I began to embrace the opportunity to interact with teachers directly—they are the face of education and, if empowered to do so, have the greatest gift to offer society.

My concern in speaking at convocations for non-urban, small, and especially rural districts was that my messages of the need for greater cultural competence and the positives of globalization might be perceived as irrelevant to them.  However, as I became more familiar with these local communities, I was struck by how culturally diverse many are. For example, Harrisonburg, Virginia has a rapidly changing and diverse population due to refugee resettlements (http://www.wmra.org/topic/refugees-virginia#stream/0), and there are many others that may seem homogeneous but actually have or will have a high degree of cultural diversity that needs to be included in education strategy and planning.

The Country is Becoming more Diverse as a Whole

While it is commonly accepted that diversity has increased in urban areas, diversity has significantly increased in rural areas as well.  In fact, data shows that 97% of smaller cities (10,000-50,000) in the U.S. have increased diversity since 1980 (Theconversation.com).  This emphasizes that the impact of immigration and growing diversity is not limited to major metropolitan areas only but extends out to all communities and thus all public school districts across the U.S.  

With this trend comes the need for education leaders to foster the cultural competence of students and communities; to help them proactively seek common ground and overcome any potential fear, bias, and closed off interactions. As we saw last week in Washington DC, implicit bias appears to have contributed to misinterpreted hostilities between three diverse groups (Native Americans, white Catholic school students, and Black Hebrew Israelites) who had separately convened at the Lincoln Memorial to exercise their freedom of speech. Moreover, with the heated debate about building a wall along the southern border of the United States, the distinctions between illegal, legal, and refugee immigration are often intentionally muddled. Education must aim to correct what is at the core of such misunderstandings.

Increase of Immigrants Settling Outside of Large Cities

The number of immigrants settling in suburban and rural areas of the U.S. has grown substantially and the trend continues to move in that direction. Since 2014, over 61% of immigrants now live in suburban areas (The Atlantic). These individuals seek the same things we all look for: affordable housing, job opportunities, and quality schools for their children, to name a few.  This outward mobility from urban centers means that suburban and rural school districts are indeed more diverse than ever before, and the skills to understand, appreciate, and value people from different backgrounds and cultures needs to be high priority.

Diversity Has Become Self-Sustaining

Not only has diversity from immigration increased across all areas of the U.S., this diversity is generally self-sustaining.  Minority groups are maintaining and growing through the birth of children. The majority of U.S. Hispanics are now native born. Of the 57.4 million people in 2016 who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino, only 34 percent (19.6 million) are first generation immigrants (Migration Policy Institute).   Cultural dynamics in the U.S. are changing permanently and all communities and school districts are impacted.  We must each increase our own cultural competencies and develop pathways to instill skills for listening, learning, and appreciating the value of people from different cultures and backgrounds. Forward-thinking educational leaders must equip teachers to model and teach cultural competence in the classroom. It’s an amazing time to be alive.

 

I’d welcome the opportunity to talk further about these trends and how your school district is working at increasing cultural competence among students and families.

Ravi Unites Schools Update

Looking Ahead: Refining Methods for Matching Schools in 2019

Last year, we tested Ravi’s assertions that students crave opportunities to connect in real time with their peers in other parts of the world, that educators seek new ways to increase their students’ cultural competencies, and that this stimulates greater empathy and action on behalf of others. By August, over 100 schools and districts had registered to Skype with a student group in another geographic region through the Ravi Unites Schools initiative. 12 classrooms with over 100 students ages 9-18 have now interacted between India, United States, China, Chile and Japan, and many more will in 2019. The Association of School Superintendents (AASA) and STEM Institute are strategic partners, and we are in discussions with Britannica. The overwhelmingly positive results were captured on video, through teacher testimonials, and in previous blogs and e-newsletter updates: learn more here.

In 2019, we will offer registered educators a larger array of dates and times from which to choose. This will increase the likelihood that schools will be able to participate. Due to the large numbers of U.S. schools participating, most opportunities will be domestic.  This spring, we will also work to build a feasible schedule of opportunities with schools registered from China, Chile, India, Japan, Canada and New Zealand. Wish us luck! There are inherent challenges in overcoming the vast differences in time zone, cultural norms, video communications systems, school day and time availabilities. Thank you for your patience. We hope that many more schools will be able to interact in 2019.

Ravi to Judge Britannica “Stand Out” Awards

I am honored to be a judge for Britannica’s first ever “Stand-Out” awards.  We want to hear about the character of students and educators, like you, who have exemplified extraordinary and inspiring characteristics that have helped to make an impact on students and classrooms. There are cash prizes for both students and teachers. Check out the following link to learn more: https://britannicalearn.com/awards/

Ravi Announces Advisory Board

Ravi welcomes his first few advisors to his board: Bob Moje, principal of VMDO Architects specializing in educational spaces, Mary Luehrsen of National Association of Music Merchants specializing in policy development and government relations efforts affecting access to music education, and Jeffrey Sexton of the US Department of State with over 30 years of US international public and cultural diplomacy experience. Learn more at https://RaviUnites.com/about

How Cross-Cultural Competence Impacts Workplace Culture and Effectiveness

How Cross-Cultural Competence Impacts Workplace Culture and Effectiveness

Last month on the blog I discussed the value of failure and how, rather than trying to help young people avoid failures, we should be more intentional about teaching the ways that failure helps us learn, grow, and ultimately succeed.  This month I want to turn our attention to the workplace as well as to our school environments; specifically how cross-cultural competence impacts workplace and school culture and effectiveness, and why this topic is more important than ever at this time in our nation.

The U.S. is currently in the middle of a significant demographic shift. Groups once considered minorities will together make up at least 52% of the country’s population by 2050, with the population of Hispanics likely to more than double and the black American and Asian populations also expected to grow by a significant margin.

In the workplace, due in part to globalization, customers and employees will represent an even more diverse mix. Most organizations are already experiencing this as they hire employees and serve customers from multiple cultures, religions, and ethnic backgrounds. It partly explains why many large corporations now have multilingual human resource personnel and customer support staff, and are looking to diversify their boards of directors and executive management teams.  This diversity presents workplace opportunities for high-quality professional development to avoid team conflict, bias, and communication breakdowns. Without engaging in appropriate, compassionate training for staff and management, businesses could experience higher turnover, lower morale, and losses in profitability.

To overcome the challenges posed by this shift, schools and businesses need to invest in intentional cross-cultural competence equipping as part of their overall talent management practices. This is one reason why my songwriting programs were presented in Indonesia, Iraq, and Lebanon by the U.S. Department of State with the focus of bridging across cultures and defeating some long-standing religious, social, racial, and cultural biases. The same principles apply in the U.S. and anywhere in the world.

What is Cross-Cultural Competence?

Culture refers to the shared traditions, beliefs, customs, institutions, folklore, and history of a particular group of people. A culture is shared by people of the same ethnicity, language, customs or religion. Competence, meanwhile, means to have sufficient knowledge and skills to enable someone to work in a wide variety of situations.

Cross-cultural competence, therefore, refers to possessing the knowledge and skills necessary to work with people of different nationalities, ethnic communities, languages, and religions. If a person, school  or organization is culturally competent, it means that they understand, appreciate, and can effectively work with people with different traditions, beliefs, and customs.

Millennial idealism offers a great opportunity to overcome many social injustices, including racism.  This generation is “color blind” and multicultural, so by embracing this aspect of millennial mindset, we can organically grow out of some implicit biases that currently hinder cultural competence in the workplace.

The good news is that you can now arrange for cross-cultural competence training for your school or organization where every generation of employee, from top to bottom, is taught skills to help them interact with people from cultures other than their own more effectively. These skills often include

  • Active listening capabilities
  • People interaction skills
  • Flexibility, and
  • Emotional intelligence


Benefits of Cross-Cultural Competence in the Workplace

There are several reasons organizations and individuals need to invest in cross-cultural competence training:

  • It helps us appreciate the perspectives and views of others

Culturally competent employees are open to the views and perspectives of employees from other cultures. This can be vital in achieving unity within the organization.

  • Multiple viewpoints can help us find lasting solutions

When people from different cultures work together, varied perspectives come to the table. With more ideas to consider, it becomes easier to find lasting solutions to existing challenges.

  • Looking out for each other

A culturally competent workforce also looks out for each other. Individuals are always willing to take action for the collective good. This, too, can be instrumental in achieving organizational togetherness.

  • Helps us develop listening skills

One of the fundamental requirements of cross-cultural competence is to possess excellent listening skills. Everyone at the organization will be willing to hear what others have to say and understand them in the ways that they uniquely express their views. More important, workers will know how to interpret what they hear within a much broader framework.

  • Instills empathy, flexibility, and adaptability

The benefits of these skills are obvious. An empathetic, flexible, and adaptable workforce is productive even in the most demanding situations. When routines, management or the direction of the organization change, individuals will more readily  adapt accordingly.

  • Helps employees resist unproductive stereotyping

Stereotyping is one of the primary impediments to workplace harmony. Cross-cultural competence helps employees recognize and deal with implicit bias and similar vices, thus boosting individual confidence and guaranteeing team morale.

  • Decreases and overcomes institutional racism

Finally, and perhaps most important, instilling cross-cultural competence in the workplace can be instrumental in rooting out racism. At the very least, the workforce will learn to appreciate each other, significantly reducing incidences of racial discrimination and abuse. This was a theme in my keynote two years ago at the National Education Association, where I talked about institutional racism in higher education. This is a pervasive challenge that must be eradicated from our multicultural society, and the benefits of unity in diversity revealed.

With the significant demographic shifts within our nation and the increased globalization of our work experiences, cross-cultural competence has become a critical issue for businesses.  It impacts not only productivity but ultimately organizational profitability.

Let’s Discuss

How will your organization address the challenges impacting workplace culture and effectiveness?  I would be glad to discuss. Please contact me to talk further.

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Educators: Join Ravi Unites Schools

We are signing up schools and districts to participate in the free Ravi Unites Schools program.  Learn more and sign up here: https://raviunites.com/schools/

In 2018, Ravi founded Ravi Unites Schools—a growing network of over a hundred K-12 schools worldwide whose students participate in peer-to-peer global real-time audio-video interactions hosted by Ravi. He believes that such exchanges promote world peace by enabling youth to bond organically rather than succumb to implicit biases formed by institutional agendas. The idea was born out of his ten-year partnership with Shanti Bhavan Children's Project—a highly successful boarding school in India for the poorest of the poor

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