Is Capitalism Failing?

Is Capitalism Failing?

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Chile Protests
Protests in Chile

Government sources continue to report current US economic statistics showing low unemployment, increases in consumer spending, and gains in the stock market.  However, beneath political rhetoric there may be more than meets the eye. As Bloomberg.com reports, “The middle-class Americans who are the main targets of Trump’s economic pitch aren’t sharing much in the gains of U.S. growth.”  

Despite the story of a strong and stable economy, we may have a weakened one. Some evidence can be more easily observed through our South American little brother, Chile, which is currently experiencing a capitalism crisis. As a defender of socially responsible capitalism (which ought not be an oxymoron), this concerns me.

I am currently in Chile and witnessing a world-proclaimed prosperous capitalist economy unravel.  Over the past two weeks, I have run from scores of angry protestors being chased by military tanks shooting water cannons and tear gas (never had such burning in my lungs, eyes, and nose), saw restaurants where I dined one day being burned to rubble the next, and now flee raging fires (suggested to be arson) that are consuming thousands of acres and spawning flames within a few feet of my car.  See it all for yourself on my facebook page: https://facebook.com/raviunites

Hong Kong, France, Lebanon, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Iraq, and Iran are also currently experiencing outbreaks of protest, violence, and destruction. Inequality, healthcare and education access, and intolerance for corruption within government, police, and military are common, and they also all evolve into violence and destruction that originates not from the bottom of the socio-economic spectrum, but rather, “the middle-class.” 

is capitalism failing?
Recent Photo take in Chile during protests

Yet each of these various movements have different political opponents. Hong Kong and Venezuelan protests are fighting socialist/communist governments while Chilean and French protests are turning against capitalist/neoliberal ones. If we dig deeper into history, Hong Kong was controlled for years by some of the most aggressive imperialists ever (the British) while Chile had the first democratically elected socialist president (Allende in 1970, who was overthrown in 1973 by the US backed military coup that put dictator Pinochet into power for 17 years, during which he established a capitalist economy).  Today, some Chileans call for a “Pinochet” style of leadership to return in order to curb violence and secure the economy while the other “half” accuse the current democratic government of increasing disparity and implementing a Pinochet style of military oppression in response to protests. 

To be clear, no socialism or dictatorship exists in Chile today.  In fact, it is extreme capitalism and very much a democratic republic. Like in France, “the people” are standing up against capitalism. In reality, the post-Pinochet strengthening of Chile’s economy left many people behind which is why the US must take note even though our media does little to cover the “fall of capitalism” in favor of the more palatable “fall of communism” in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Hong Kong. 

So, let’s examine three underreported factors that expose our weakening economy.

Underemployment: Double the Rate of Unemployment

While quick to report the U.S. economy’s low unemployment rate of 3.7% (as of June), the media generally overlooks the rate of under-employment which is 7.2%—double the June 2019 unemployment rate of 3.7%. 

According to brookings.edu, “The unemployment rate is in some ways a narrow measure of the labor market that misses important aspects of labor market distress. A broader indicator of labor market weakness called the underemployment rate—and in Bureau of Labor Statistics jargon referred to as the U-6 unemployment rate—takes into account some of this additional distress. Examining both unemployment and underemployment is useful for analyzing different aspects of the labor market.”

While a relatively small percentage of people are out of work, there is still considerable underutilized labor and many for whom the labor market is not providing adequate opportunities. This also means fewer are tapping into social programs designed to help those in need, which is positive except that under-employing people creates a proverbial doughnut hole where working families are still not able to sustain themselves yet no longer qualify for help.  When fewer get social help but experience social mobility, they become victims of credit and predatory lending. How can this equal a healthy economy? Would there even be a middle class if it were not for credit cards?

Increasing Credit Card Debt

The middle class exists largely due to credit which eventually causes a credit crisis in the economy. We saw it in 2008 with subprime mortgages.  We see it today in Chile with low wages and high costs of goods including education and healthcare accessed through predatory lending—two issues facing many US citizens.

Cnbc.com reported that outstanding consumer debt exceeded $4 trillion for the first time, according to the Federal Reserve.  The average American has a credit card balance of $4,293. At an average of 17.41%, interest rates have never been higher. 

Massive Educational Debt

If those are not enough, the middle class also carries massive student debt.  The average per adult now exceeds $37,000 with a loan-repayment average timeline of 19.7 years, according to nitrocollege.com.  

Cnbc.com reports, “Outstanding student loan debt has tripled in the last decade and is now $1.5 trillion. A college education is now the second-largest expense an individual is likely to make in a lifetime-right after purchasing a home.”

With 7.2% of U.S. citizens underemployed and with credit card and student loan debt at an all-time high, our economy cannot be as politicians would have you believe. 

In Conclusion

There is a lot more to our economy than headlines tell us. Poverty alleviation as a key objective of an economic system is misleading because one also must make sure that when moving people into a middle-class, it cannot be one that ultimately collapses in debt.  Is it really a middle-class if it lacks financial literacy, independence, and sustainability? Is it ethical to move people out of social assistance programs only to expose them to predatory lenders that saddle them with debt? 

I believe that whether capitalism, socialism, or something else prevails, we now live in a sharing economy that relies less on vertical economies (tickle up or trickle down) and more on lateral networks.  Capital itself has transitioned from financial to social. 

Moreover, I see the greatest enemy of every society being polarization.  Lack of civil discourse is our greatest obstacle yet is also the most necessary opportunity to create today.   If we can achieve that, everything else will begin to fall into place. We should debate economic theories, cultural differences, environmental concerns, and more, however, until we bring most people back toward the middle, is there any system that can be implemented successfully? 

For more regarding this discussion, check out my most recent interview with Jim Blasingame on the Small Business Advocate, at smallbusinessadvocate.com

 

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

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We had planned to set up multiple interactions during Ravi’s current stay in Chile, however, due to the social unrest and violence, schools have been closed for multiple days causing unpredictable schedules and a high work load to catch up before summer vacation (which begins next week in the southern hemisphere). We hope to schedule more interactions globally soon, but possibly not before 2020. Nevertheless, please keep an eye on your inbox as we will contact you as soon as an opportunity arises.

Other News and Announcements

Ravi and Britannica have extended their partnership into 2020.  This means we can partially subsidize the cost of a keynote to qualifying educational events which will amount to a generous 40% savings for you.  To secure your partially subsidized keynote, please reply to this email with your planned date and location so we can let you know the details and hold the date for you.  Don’t delay, as the funds are limited and allocated on a first come-first serve basis.

Ravi has been in Chile facing the extreme social unrest head on (as highlighted in this month’s blog post). He will fly straight from there to give the keynote in December for VASCD (Virginia ASCD) in historic Williamsburg VA, and will speak on Cultural Competence as a Pathway to Equity in Education.

 

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.

Polarization in the USA and the Need to Teach Data Triangulation

Polarization in the USA and the Need to Teach Data Triangulation

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Polarization has become serious in the U.S. and has significant negative consequences that impact society. From the cultural divide between Republicans and Democrats to positions on immigration, racial equity, same-sex marriage and more, deep lines have been drawn. Arguably, even our current rifts on impeachment and middle east issues are based more on partisanship than fact.  This divide places “the other side” as a threat and collaborative communication is nearly non-existent. Even our news sources have become entrenched in positional reporting, making it difficult for many to have an objective and non-partisan viewpoint.  

One of the most beautiful realizations I had about overcoming extreme differences was when I traveled from Beirut to Baalbek in Lebanon.  My Christian driver and I cautiously traversed Hezbollah territory only to be stopped and have a soldier board our car. We drove for 20 minutes with my driver and the soldier having an animated conversation in Arabic--I was sure they were making a deal and I was being sold out to a terrorist.  At the next checkpoint, the soldier got out and my driver and I continued on to Baalbek. Seeing my sense of relief, he turned to me and calmly said, “Don’t worry; he is Muslim and I am Christian but first we are both Lebanese.” 

Surely if they can prioritize nationalism, Republicans and Democrats ought to be able to first be Americans.  If we are to overcome polarization, significant shifts need to occur and educators have a powerful opportunity to facilitate this by teaching students to triangulate data before succumbing to perceptions.

What is Data Triangulation?

Triangulation of data involves consulting three or more sources on a topic. This increases the validity of research and leads to better understanding through the study of different opinions on the same topic. The benefits include establishing broader context on an issue as well as the need to synthesize and evaluate differences. Conclusions from one source may reinforce or conflict with others. The output from a given data collection process can also confirm or disprove a hypothesis generated by another theory. 

In the cockpit of an airplane, we look at three or more instruments before concluding the status of the flight. The idea is to minimize bias and increase objective understanding that looks at an issue from multiple angles. If teachers implement this model and help students use this in all subjects, this will not only help students see issues more objectively in the classroom, but equip them to adopt this practice throughout life. This can, in turn, provide solutions to issues that are paralyzed due to polarization and preempt this polarization in the future. However, access to data is the key.

Network Neutrality

Without network neutrality, our partisan news sources can skew information in one direction. With it, all people regardless of socioeconomic status can get data from different sources and compare because Internet service providers would be required to allow users to create and access content equitably and free of charge.  Teachers then would have a powerful opportunity that will impact decision-making for years to come by helping students to engage with material from all sides of a matter. This eliminates bias that brings about polarization.

Moreover, teaching students to champion network neutrality and the facilitation of data triangulation will mold them into citizens that do not lean on one-sided political opinions or ideologies. In an economy that now depends on the sharing of knowledge, critical thinking is essential. Network neutrality will benefit students in the long run, making them more objective and less prone to a one-sided perspective on issues.

Civil Discourse

Holding classroom debates as part of data triangulation can also be valuable as it helps people see from another’s perspective. Debates can even be one of the data collection methods used in triangulation. Getting the opinions of others on specific political issues that they have researched can be mind-expanding and can help broaden attitudes when facilitated with care, and it allows for the sharing of diverse views with an intent to listen and understand the other party. This is civil discourse. 

Data Triangulation and Vaping

Consider the current national issues surrounding vaping.  This provides teachers a relevant front-burner issue where data triangulation could be used in the classroom, enabling students to dive into the debate, grow in their data triangulation skills, and come up with relevant recommendations that are non-partisan and well-researched.  It will also organically draw teens to the dangers and considerations of vaping without imposing authority and risking rejection.

Flip the Classroom

By flipping the classroom and shifting teachers from presenters to facilitators, we can empower students to look at all sides of any issue while equipping them with a lifelong skill that can benefit society for decades to come.

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

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We are preparing for a number of new interactions between Chile, India, and the US.  Please keep an eye on your email as we will be sending out possible dates soon. We are also working on getting new international schools in the network from Portugal, France, and beyond.

Other News and Announcements

Last month was a busy one for me in Education.  I gave the keynote for Indiana School Boards Association & Indiana Public School Administrators Association, New Hampshire School Administrators Association, Virginia Association of School Superintendents Region VIII, and spoke to students at Ben Davis University High School in Indiana. This week I head to Milwaukee to address the Milwaukee Area Technical College as well as local high school. Thank you to Britannica who helped make each of these possible through our ongoing partnership.

"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

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.

Millennials in the Workplace: Why and How Your Company Needs to Pivot

Millennials in the Workplace: Why and How Your Company Needs to Pivot

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Millennials in the Workplace Why and How your Company Needs to Pivot

Millennials have arrived and are changing the workplace forever.  They have different desires and expectations than past generations and therefore companies must pivot, shifting from maintaining methods that worked for baby boomers to those that resonate with millennials. With 35% of the labor force now being made up of millennials, this is a pressing issue for businesses as baby-boomers retire.

Why Your Company Needs to Pivot to Millennials Working Habits

Millennials are Hard to Recruit and Retain

Millennial turnover already costs the US economy $30.5 billion annually. They are the most educated generation in history and expected to form 75% of the workforce by 2030. The impact of high employee turnover is significant for all companies because it not only results in higher recruiting costs, but also a decline in productivity, overall revenue, employee morale, and cohesive company culture. Millennials have a reputation for job-hopping as they become bored or see new opportunities. This high turnover ratio can have a huge impact on a company's bottom line so the need to retain and enable millennials to thrive is critical.

Let’s look deeper at reasons why millennials are so detached from organizations.

  • It Takes Longer for Millennials to Choose a Career

The director of the lab on aging at Harvard Medical School says the first person to live until 150 has already been born.  This means that it will simply take millennials longer to find what they want to do for 100 years of their working lives.  They are having a hard time finding jobs that they feel passionate about as they explore various roles and try different career paths and will only settle short-term for a career if it puts food on their table.  They want more, both in terms of pay and meaning. If they come across a better opportunity, they are quick to transition. This long-term view of life and bias for “purpose” means that they are taking longer to find a career they want.

  • Millennials have Less Real-Work Experience

Millennials have also spent a lot of time building their academic records. They were told that a good academic record equated career opportunities.  Moreover, they enjoyed college life, leaving them less inclined to move quickly into the workforce. While education can be good, millennials often lack a helpful work history and when they graduate, it becomes hard for them to land a job due to this lack of experience. Millennials grew up with so many choices presented to them that many lack the ability to create opportunities when none are apparent.  Therefore, many still search for their passion and interests and this has resulted in dissatisfaction at the workplace and hence, higher attrition.

I’ve said before that experiential learning prepares students for the real world. Exposure to real-life work experience sharpens students’ competencies, helps them change their mind-set about the job market, and gives them qualified time to identify their passions. Lack of experiential learning denies students the time to adapt to the real world, taking longer for them to choose their career paths after graduating

  • They are the Most Entrepreneurial and Least Loyal to Organizations

The millennial generation is the most entrepreneurial generation we have ever seen. They are showing themselves to be the most purpose-driven and as such, the most detached from major institutions such as politics, religion, and marriage. Their commitment and loyalty to organizations is equally minimal. The reason behind their entrepreneurial mind-set is that they have lost faith in employment as well as that desire for flexibility. The unemployment rate for millennials stands above the overall rate at 12.8%. Unemployment and uncertainty in the job market have motivated them to start their own projects and chart their own career paths. The broken promises in employment like getting promotions after investing in higher education make them less committed to employers.

  • Millennials Value Integration Versus Work-Life Balance

The traditional work-life balance environment designed by baby boomers will not suit millennial lifestyle and goals. They want work-life integration.  The ability to do important work while in flip flops and checking social media! Millennials will be attracted to your organization if allowed to work when their productivity peaks. They value autonomy and options and look for flexible work hours as well as the ability to work remotely.

How Your Company Must Pivot to Consider Millennials

As illustrated, millennials have different career expectations. To successfully recruit and retain millennials in your organization, here are key considerations and recommendations.

  • Take a Work-Life Integration Approach

Work-life integration beyond just creating a balance is critical to millennials. Integrate technology to make it easy for them to work remotely. As working hours become extended, you need to provide flexible schedules which allow millennials to work at their rhythm.  Offering substantial paid time off and support for family events such as births and childcare is also greatly valued.

  • Provide Regular Feedback and Encouragement

Millennials are motivated by making a difference and innovation. To motivate millennial employees, provide regular feedback and encouragement. They need to feel connected to their team and the fellow workers. Millennial workers are more content where their efforts are recognized--this generation grew up receiving trophies for 5th place! They are more concerned about making a difference than making a profit, so how can your company showcase your social values? 

  • Create Pathways for Millennials to Move within the Organization

As noted, it takes millennials some significant time before they settle for a career.  They want to accumulate experiences and refrain from settling down. Millennials prefer to stay in companies where there is progressive growth, so how can your company allow pathways for millennials to try different roles and move internally within the organization rather than leaving the organization?

  • Allow Millennials to Be Innovative

Another key for companies today is to include millennials early on in the transformation of systems, processes, and activities. To attract them, encourage internal innovation to allow them to work and think differently. Millennials prefer flexibility to specific schedules, the opportunity to innovate and have progressive growth, and having a sense of ownership of the results. 

By taking the above into consideration and shifting your HR process and company culture, your company can become an attractive place that will recruit,  motivate, and retain millennial employees.

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

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We have had four amazing interactions since the last newsletter, making this the busiest month ever for Ravi Unites Schools.  At the end of August I hosted one live from Chile where students of the MacKay School in Vina Del Mar interacted with peers in Santa Ana California USA.  Then later that week, I hosted virtually (still from Chile) and interaction between Tamil Nadu India and Aurora Ohio USA. Then I went to India and alongside student in Tamil Nadu, I hosted an interaction with their peers from Stevens Point Wisconsin USA.  Finally, alongside students in Mumbai, I hosted an interaction with their peers in Hilton Head South Carolina USA. These were all amazing and you can see some of the latest videos at RaviUnites.com/schools.

Other News and Announcements

India: I am returning today from a jam-packed trip to India.  It began with a very special week at Shanti Bhavan (a boarding school for the poorest of the poor with whom I have partnered for a decade). In addition to giving students workshops on music, public speaking, and social responsibility, the school unveiled the new name of the kindergarten residence building in a ceremony honoring my late grandmother. She will be watching over these amazing kids now, smiling upon them and encouraging them to achieve their dreams and discover all that life has to offer. Hope you can one day visit Krishna Nehru Hutheesing House at Shanti Bhavan in Tamil Nadu, India.

Also while in India, I hosted two Ravi Unites Schools interactions (see Ravi Unites Schools update below) and gave a keynote for the students and faculty of the Singapore International School in Mumbai.  It is a beautiful school with a remarkable staff and very bright students. Thank you to New Millennium Education Partners for bringing me to SIS.

New Management:  I am so excited to announce that Dynamic Communication Management Partners is now managing my speaking career.  Denise and Chris are amazing and so experienced, giving me the opportunity to deliver a higher level of service and content to my keynote clients.

"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

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.

Back to School: The Value of Experiential Learning

Back to School: The Value of Experiential Learning

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Experiential Learning

For centuries, formal education has been administered through a classroom format. Even today by the time children enter university or even high school, they have already been “sentenced” to hours upon hours of classroom content with little exposure to actual practice. 

Last week I was on BizTalkRadio’s Frankie Boyer Show (https://raviunites.com/media/) and Frankie asked me why higher education is veering away from experiential learning when it used to be more commonplace. Could it be because higher ed in the USA has become such a business that there is possibly a conscious effort to keep students in academia for longer? More college graduates seem to feel unprepared to enter the real world which causes them to enroll in further, or dare I say “perpetual” education (often deepening their student debt). 

A shift is needed from lecture-based methods to experiential learning in order to prepare students for the world in which we live.  Now it’s “back to school,” and it’s an appropriate time to look at increasing experiential learning in our education system.

Recent studies (probably by career academics!) strongly support the notion that learning through experience should be a vital part of the learning experience.  Due to the greater demands of today’s world and the increased speed of change, experiential learning is essential to the success of students today and we must prepare them for the world by engaging with it now.

Ancient Chinese proverb: I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.” 

As a musician and speaker, I’m not so sure I like the “I hear and I forget” part, but I do agree that multisensory interaction (with a person, place, or concept) creates a stronger connection.

A not-so-ancient “Ravi-ism” goes like this: “Someone taught me trigonometry in school but I learned it in the cockpit of an airplane…and didn’t even know it was trigonometry.” And, I often tell my audiences that being the guitarist of Hanson was attending the “Harvard Business School of Rock and Roll.”

Learning by Doing: ELT

The creator of Experiential Learning Theory (ELT), David Kolb, defined the “process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience." Kolb further pointed out that an effective learner is a person who thinks, feels, perceives, and then behaves.  Real experiences expose students to the potential for exercising all their senses in a far greater measure than a typical classroom experience.

Today, many university graduates complete their degrees with very limited direct contact with the practices they have studied (to Frankie’s point above). Moreover, millions of students head back for post-graduate work without having had any real-life experience in their field of study and knowing that they are ill-prepared, yet they go back to the same methods that failed them.

Academic Study Results Support Experiential Learning

One study reported in the April-June 2019 edition of the Science Direct Journal of Innovation & Knowledge reviews a recent project conducted at a Spanish Business School. The program was designed to draw a link between students’ experienced-based learnings and their ultimate academic outcomes. The students involved in the project were working on their Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.

Some experienced actual hands-on activities with active immersion and involvement plus managerial simulations designed to sharpen their competencies. Students in the Management Skills class worked with middle and top management professionals to assess competencies, gain deeper insights, and reach a better understanding of the skills required in a managerial profession. These individuals obtained essential knowledge by direct observation and conducting interviews with their manager-partner. The results suggest that those participating in experiential learning scored significantly higher in their final class projects and examinations than those only receiving in-class lectures.

Why is Experiential Learning Important to the Future of Learning?

One important reason why hands-on experience and outside exposure to real-life operations are important is that new-hires can “hit the ground running.” Orientation and transition time to adapt to “real life” circumstances are reduced--a significant benefit to any company.  While this should also help employee retention, it will surely facilitate the process of recruiting.

Other benefits, as noted by eLearning Industry, include:

  • Student learning accelerates
  • Real-life simulations provide a “safe” learning experience. Learners can make mistakes without repercussions.
  • Bridges the gap between lectures and actual practice
  • Creates mindset changes
  • Increases engagement
  • Delivers a more potent return on the student’s investment in education
  • Assessment results are both more accurate and less subjective
  • Learning is more personalized when it is hands-on rather than as a crowd-directed lecture.

Real-life working experiences as a student also develops “soft skills” by learning to manage stress and resolve conflict, making a more efficient and desirable employee.  I discussed this in my post on cultural competence in the workplace

What Next?

Integrating experiential learning into the education process even at the primary school level can be a tremendous benefit to the educational process, as it develops the skill of life-long learning.  Parents should also take a more active role in their children’s education (such as doing daily homework with them), because they can then discuss and encourage the implementation of more experiential learning opportunities with educators.  Family engagement is key.

 

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

Chile & India: On August 29th, Ravi Unites Schools will host an interaction between high school students of The Mackay School in Valparaiso, Chile and a school in the United State which will be selected today.  I will host that alongside the students from Chile, where I am now. Then, on September 4th, I will host another between high school students at Shanti Bhavan in Tamil Nadu, India and Aurora High School in Aurora Ohio USA.  We are currently setting up more interactions, and perhaps very soon, as I will be in India and hope to host one live from there.

Latest News & Updates

New iHeart Media, SiriusXM Radio Shows...and a few awesome podcasts:

Check out the latest shows and podcasts at https://raviunites.com/media/.  In addition to some great mainstream radio interviews, I’ve been interviewed by some very good podcasts that will be available soon including “Fortunes from Speaking with Chris Widener,” Mari Ryan’s “Workplace Well-being Expert Interview Series,” and “Intelligence for Your Life” by the legendary John Tesh.

"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

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

With 38% of U.S. Jobs at Risk Due to Automation, We Need a Plan of Action

With 38% of U.S. Jobs at Risk Due to Automation, We Need a Plan of Action

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Jobs at Risk Due to Automation

An in-depth report detailed in the Los Angeles Times warns that U.S. employers could automate nearly four out of 10 American jobs before 2035. Workers in the United States face a higher risk of unemployment than those in other countries such as Japan, Britain and Germany. Another prediction was slightly more conservative but still forecasted up to 36 million layoffs. There is a significant shift occurring in many industries and our education systems must pivot to empower the next generation of leaders and workers to be ready. To prepare our youth for the future, we don’t need to completely reform education but we do need to make changes to historical patterns of educating youth and young adults.  I’ve been talking a lot lately on iHeart Media and SiriusXM about the balance of liberal arts and vocational education (listen here), and preparing for my keynote next week for the 100th anniversary of the California Agricultural Teachers Association has pushed my thinking even deeper.

Specific Industries Impacted

Both reports noted above point to several vulnerable sectors. Students might lose their jobs to robots if they plan careers in hospitality, finance, manufacturing, data entry or insurance. Self-driving vehicles could put truck and taxi drivers out of work as well. On the other hand, automaton probably won't replace composers, athletes, artists, supervisors, dental hygienists or nurses, at least not yet... Fortune magazine highlighted education itself as the sector "least susceptible to automation," but I believe that to ensure that, teachers must pivot from being deliverers of knowledge to becoming facilitators of lifelong learning.

What Students Need

Most robots perform routine work in controlled environments. This has also been historically the type of work for which our technical trade courses (vocational, career technical education/CTE, etc.) prepared students.  We must make changes now to help young people learn to accomplish tasks that machines simply do not and may never understand. Students need to develop more sophisticated technical skills as well as the ability to think critically at a high level. A liberal arts education offers valuable benefits in the critical thinking realm but doesn't provide the specialized technical expertise that many careers demand. The jobs of the future will require a different but critical balance of liberal arts with technical instruction.

Learning to Pivot

In the not-so-distant past, things like driverless cars only appeared in science-fiction films. No one could predict if or when they would really exist, but they are emerging right now. Why does this matter? We don't know how far robotics and artificial intelligence will advance in the coming decades, but it will continue at a fast pace. Consequently, students must be prepared to adapt as technology swiftly develops.

Pew Research Center and Elon’s Imagining the Internet Center conducted a survey in 2016.  A key finding was that among the future worker capabilities with the highest value was the “ability to adapt, or ‘pivot,”’(Pewinternet.org). Students must now be equipped with the mindset and skills to learn new skills regularly. Creating a culture of lifelong learning must be the primary goal of every education system.

The Need for Entrepreneurial Mindset

Young people can prepare for automation by becoming innovators. Robots still lack creativity and discerning judgement, so they have little ability to invent anything new. An entrepreneurial mindset promotes innovation, even if you work for a well-established employer. It demands creativity and benefits from a desire to help people. We must change priorities and goals before we can truly encourage all students to think like entrepreneurs.

What to Prioritize

Young people become closed-minded and overly fearful of failure when teachers focus on memorization and penalize students who make errors while testing unconventional ideas. Instead, we ought to reward students for thinking about new possibilities and taking risks. In order to develop vision, one must be willing to take risks and learn from failure--as I have heard educators say, FAIL is just the First Attempt In Learning. Students benefit when they feel comfortable talking about ideas or alternative ways to accomplish a task. One must keep an open mind as often there is more than one “right” decision or "right” answer in achieving something.

The Need for Cultural Competence

We can also prepare young people for the future by helping them better understand themselves and others. They should know how to efficiently communicate and cooperate with those whom are culturally different, and this requires presentation and social skills. Globalization and immigration have bolstered the importance of this. Teachers can promote cultural competence by educating students to first become aware and understand their own implicit biases (handwriting is a great exercise for this because it forces one to slow down their thinking enough to become aware of one’s thoughts) as well as about foreign traditions, beliefs and habits. For instance, one could explain why Chinese people don't like to receive clocks or watches as gifts.

No Substitute for Human Relationships

Cultural competence and standard social skills help individuals develop positive, friendly relationships. This ability holds the key to career success for many people. It's hard to replace a caring, likable person with a robot. Bartenders, insurance agents, financial advisors, doctors and salespeople have something in common. Although employers can automate some aspects, the public doesn't just want a product. Customers also desire to do business with a kind, genuine person who willingly befriends them and earns their trust.

The education system in the U.S. needs to pivot to prepare students to pivot throughout their lives.  Automation is coming and jobs will change. The job opportunities of the future will require new skills that demand a mix of what we now often separate into liberal arts versus technical skills.  Specialized technical learning currently prepares young people to find their first jobs. Liberal arts with an emphasis on critical thinking, along with an entrepreneurial mindset, cultural competence and developed social skills will enable the young people of tomorrow to adapt as the economy undergoes rapid change and be highly employable in the future job market.

What shifts can you make today to better prepare students for tomorrow?  Please email me and let me know.

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.

 

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We are planning our first three-way interaction when schools are back in session in August, and it will span three continents, three cultures, and three languages!  

Stay tuned for more information in next month’s newsletter.

Latest News & Updates

"Songwriting Safari" in Chile

Join Ravi in Chile for a “Songwriting Safari” – February 21-March 1, 2020.

Click below for full details

https://centrodeartecuraumilla.com/en/ravi-hutheesing-unites-intercultural-songwriting-retreat-february-21-march-1-2020/

 

In this ten-day songwriting workshop, participants will stimulate the creation of music working with each other, the teacher, and well known guest artists which results in a creative and unique body work. Each participant should expect to participate in the creating of three original songs over the duration of the workshop. In addition, there will be discussion on using music as a form of cultural diplomacy, artist-entrepreneurship, and more.

By participating in this unique opportunity, you will be creating timeless songs, building global friendships and memorable artistic collaborations, and using your talents to bring humanity closer to world peace.  Tell your friends and students about this unique opportunity!

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.

Civil Discourse: 3 Ways to Help Students Learn to Engage with Civility

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.

Civil Discourse:  3 Ways to Help Students Learn to Engage with Civility

 

Politics on social media... the two go together like fire and lighter fluid!

Simply post something about politics on Facebook and watch how fast the conversation becomes negative and polarizing. I've been intentionally sharing provocative reflections recently on my Facebook Page, Ravi Unites, to promote civil discourse and have found that the discussion heats up quickly. There is a lack of effort or ability to seek productive dialogue which results in fruitless conversation that draws boundaries instead of building bridges.  What are we teaching the next generation of young leaders? Moreover, in a society where admitting fault has become akin to being unpatriotic, how do we progress as a nation and encourage our children to grow into lifelong learners if the art of being wrong and learning from it is no longer available as the pathway to success?

I believe strongly that the skill of civil discourse is a critical learning objective that needs to be addressed more intentionally in our educational systems. Unsurprisingly, I’m not the only one that is troubled by this trend. Chris Lundberg, an Assistant Professor of Rhetoric at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, shares the same concerns and notes how we have become a society of incivility. He explains that politeness is a prerequisite for good public discourse, and like I, feels that avoiding the truth in the name of preserving a good discussion does not serve society well. The issue is that we have a lack of training and healthy modeling of productive sharing of ideas and opinions. Therefore we must develop the skills for civil discourse that can enable a healthy exchange of ideas rather than devolving into negativity and outlandish attacks.

How Do We Regain Civility?

The original concept of societal civilus (or a civilized society) meant that members of the society were supposed to comport themselves in a way that seeks well for the society. We must help future leaders understand and learn how to engage in civil discourse from a young age by preparing them to confront and civilly debate even the most charged topics. And, no, civil doesn’t mean hiding the truth.

While we all have a duty to practice good manners when addressing other people, being civil also comes with the responsibility to do what’s right for society – tell the truth. This is what we need to instill in these leaders of tomorrow.

The following are three practical ways to introduce students to civil discourse in the classroom:

1. Have Students Watch Public Debates

Like any other skill, the ability to engage in civil discourse is learned one step at a time. So, in order to take the first step, I recommend educators start with this simple activity; something that doesn’t feel personally threatening to individual participants.  

Watching (rather than participating in) a debate is an excellent learning opportunity. Let students watch other people debate contentious topics and then discuss the discourse that took (or didn’t take) place.   What was helpful? What was not? What can they learn from what they have observed? There are several places to find excellent material for this kind of teaching: Oxford Union, National Debate and Speech Association, and Intelligence Squared.

2. Introduce Private, Silent Journaling

After watching several debates, move to the next step – silent, reflective journaling. This is where students are presented with a debatable statement and asked to; Agree, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree with it, privately; no one has to know their stance.

This strategy works very well because students can confidently express their views without fear of confrontation from others who may not share the same viewpoint. More important, it gets them into the practice of taking positions on difficult topics. With time, you can ask them to defend their choices by giving reasons for their answers. This further instills discipline as it cultivates the culture of taking a position for a reason rather than just following the herd.

3. Introduce class debates

This is where art of civil discourse flourishes. Begin with relatively easy, non-threatening topics and slowly move to more highly charged topics as the students become used to publicly expressing and defending a viewpoint (and not necessarily their own).  Lay out your ground rules and share tips for positive and civil discussion. The key is to assign each student a viewpoint to defend. This way they are challenged to think critically and respond respectfully, whether or not they agree with the position or not, and always give participants enough time to research the topic and come up with points.

It’s Not Too Late

Current trends on social media are not overly positive, but it’s not too late to salvage the future and make sure that poor discussion habits do not dominate social and professional situations. Introducing these three strategies in the classroom can help bring back some sanity by weaving critical civil discourse skills into tomorrow’s leaders.

Ravi Unites Schools Update: Practicing Civil Discourse Together

If you live in the United States, I hope you will agree that it is time to practice civil discourse and to guide our students to do the same. This spring, I am hosting free real-time audio-video interactions between students within the country. I strongly encourage you to make every effort to participate when you receive an email inviting you to select a date and time for an interaction. If these dates do not work for you, please write sandy@raviunitesschools.com to be placed on the waiting list.

Participating now will not interfere with future opportunities and you will still be notified as new international dates and times emerge. I continue to work to build a feasible schedule with schools registered from China, Chile, India, Japan, Canada and New Zealand. The vast differences in time zone, cultural norms, video communications systems, school day and time availabilities continue to inspire and challenge me.

Upcoming Events:

March 18th, 2019

Northwest Indian Youth Summit, Fort Hall, ID

I am very excited to work with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe and deliver the keynote to their youth community on developing a growth mindset. Native American Indians are an essential and marginalized segment of the US population, and I look forward to learning more about how to help them overcome the cultural biases and obstacles they face, preserve and promote their culture, and help others learn, respect and appreciate their values, traditions, art forms and more..

 

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.