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:

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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

 

 

Millennials, AI & Education in 2018: Thoughts on the Future

Millennials, AI & Education in 2018: Thoughts on the Future
Photo by Billetto Editorial on Unsplash

Millennials, AI & Education in 2018: Thoughts on the Future

Here we are, one month into 2018. While each year we individually turn a page, it is sometimes hard to recognize the gradual evolution of society. We now have a large, young demographic increasingly assuming leadership roles, and a more diverse and open-minded population struggling to find its way amidst a political push for a more traditional social infrastructure. Social shifts are not rocket science; they are a pendulum swing that we have seen many times before.

The generational pendulum is swinging

What makes it different now is that the Baby Boomers were a big generation, X'ers are small, and Millennials are the biggest with Gen Z on track to be even bigger. The big-small-big-small generational pattern is being disrupted. I believe that rather than the pendulum swinging back and forth with each generation as it has in the past, it will now start to swing a wider path.

This will lead to more extremes that are both positive and negative. Millennial idealism will push a multicultural and border-less vision that will generate increasing pushback from boomers. But the younger voice will prevail to a degree where optimism may actually overshadow wisdom and nostalgia. They may, in fact, organically defeat most social injustices. On the other hand, radical ideology in all forms may escalate in opposition. We could see an increase in terrorism and racial divides, both nationally and abroad.

Changes in technology and the job market are coming

Technology and Artificial Intelligence are going to have an increased presence in our lives in 2018. The traditional job market in the short and midterm will consequently shrink. Entrepreneurial opportunities will blossom for those broadminded enough to recognize them.

A shrinking job market will work against the current USP (unique selling proposition) of education—"College and Career Ready." We must embrace the opportunity to find applications for newly available human capital. Let's figure out how to effectively teach entrepreneurship and innovation, which I believe means embracing a liberal arts education.

Education's responsibility in 2018 and beyond

The combination of all these forces gives education its greatest opportunity to positively impact the world. It must ramp up a proactive stance in 2018. Educators must prepare and empower students to create a more peaceful society. Particularly by teaching them data triangulation in order to eliminate the existence of destructive players like "fake news." Students must be taught to recognize entrepreneurial opportunities and capitalize on them in order to make peace profitable. The only thing standing in the way of world peace is war profiteering.

The most visible shift we will see in education during 2018 and beyond is the domination of the millennial generation and the impact they will have. Millennials will increasingly become parents, school board members, administrators, policymakers, and teachers.

The current teacher shortage must also be sufficiently addressed in 2018. We cannot simply expect cash-strapped millennials who want to make a difference but are saddled with student debt to all of a sudden find fulfillment in education. Society continues to undervalue educators. We seem to have a national anti-intellectual movement that surely will not help make America great again. We have a loud voice in America that effectively screams, “If you take away our guns, you take away our freedom.” In 2018, I’d like to hear an even louder voice scream, “If you take away our public education, you take away our freedom.”

Conclusion

I believe in Millennials, and believe the increasing impact they will have on education and society will be positive overall. Their proclivity for entrepreneurship and desire to have a positive and meaningful impact on the world will yield great results if the rest of us do one of two things: support their initiatives or simply get out of their way.

Happy New Year!

What are the human transactions of the future?

I am really looking forward to keynoting the All Ohio Counselors Conference next week—a combined audience of career and mental health counselors, helping our youth navigate an increasingly complicated world.

The impact of Artificial Intelligence and technology on the job market is going to change the careers available to graduates and transform the way we interact. With a predicted 38% of today's jobs being automated in 10-15 years, we must consider that human exchanges revolving around goods and services may no longer be the norm.

What are the transactions of the future? I believe we will have a cultural economy—an exchange of cultural values and activities that form the basis of human interaction and the advancement of society. However, with globalization comes cultural dilution, and therein lies a conundrum that educators and counselors must address. Otherwise, we risk devolving into animal instincts and survivalist mentalities.

Combining the idealism of the Millennial generation with their size, which will be followed by the equally large and idealistic Gen Z, we now have the opportunity to naturally grow out of many of society's greatest injustices. However, that will require Baby Boomers to quietly hang onto their baggage and not unload it onto the Millennials. The generation that grew up with segregation being the norm must not inadvertently pollute the generation that grew up with Obama being the norm. If that happens, our noble efforts to extinguish implicit biases will only result in perpetuating them.

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A “Baby Boomer Baggage” Election

The votes are in, we have a new President-Elect, and the country is in a bit of a tailspin.  Whether or not one agrees with the result, polls show that baby-boomers gave Donald Trump the most powerful position in the world. Had the millennials come out in droves (less than half voted, representing 19% of the total vote), it is reasonable to assume the results would have been different.  This was a strategic miscalculation—or lack of calculation—on the part of the world’s largest generation, because their disaffection toward both candidates and the election itself produced a result that has many protesting in the streets (much like Brexit).

Instead of making their voices heard, the millennials let the baby boomers cast votes while looking in the rear view mirror.  “Make America Great Again” is a powerful slogan, but many policies surrounding it are regressive.  Much of what made America great before does not have the same relevance today.  Most jobs are not going to come back, and those that do are likely not ones that deliver a return on the education investment millennials have made…plus, those jobs will soon anyway be outsourced to technology and artificial intelligence.  Moreover, building walls are not consistent with the millennials’ desire to build bridges, and religious resurgence is unlikely to be embraced by the most secular generation we’ve ever seen.  And as far as education policy goes, what policy?  We have heard the least about this—the true engine behind making America great again.

By nature, the older we get, the more we find comfort in nostalgia and the more we fear change.  However, nostalgia is not something you learn; like wisdom, it is something you earn.  But that is about the only thing nostalgia and wisdom have in common.

The Future of Education

As four-year university education in America continues to push people into debt without delivering real world value, market forces will put the power of educating in the hands of the student (i.e. customer). For educators, the primary role will be to promote a thirst for knowledge and a blueprint for learning, as the students of tomorrow will drink from the bottomless well of information available in the palms of their hands. I look forward to the future of education.

Institutional brands of education will give way to relevant knowledge regardless of its origin, though that origin may very well be community colleges where vocational training prevails and costs are kept in check.  However, for the sake of innovation, entrepreneurship, and the economy, we cannot not just prepare students for the jobs of today.  We must also prepare them to create the jobs of tomorrow.  This requires integrating a liberal education into today’s two-year programs, which includes experiential and peer-to-peer learning that will also develop “soft skills.”

The arts must also come back into focus. The current buzz around STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) brings many good skills to the surface, but suppresses perhaps the most “critical.” STEAM is more important, because without the arts, we suppress critical thinking as well as stifle creativity and empathy…the ingredients of innovation and leadership. This may very well be by design, but it isn’t going to do society any good in the long run.

The Millennial Conundrum

Millennials live in a dichotomy.  Much of what they desire is the consequence of what they were not given, and this places their interests in disharmony with their strengths.  Surveys report that music is the millennial generation’s number one priority, yet they have witnessed the arts being devalued in public education throughout their entire lives.  Broken promises of employment and job security makes them crave entrepreneurship while standardized testing and government mandated curriculum have arguably educated them out of creativity.  Millennials want to change the world but have grown up in a society where corruption (government, wall street, and charity) has produced a high number of disaffected youth.

Do millennials feel entitled to succeed?  Certainly.  Many have been told since pre-school that they are on a track to Harvard.  Moreover, “earning” ribbons and trophies simply for participation has removed possible failure from the equation, negating the value of taking risks.

Ultimately, millennials want to be defined by their passions, not their careers.  “Who you are” as opposed to “what you do” is paramount.  However, they have been kept so preoccupied by helicopter parents needing to procure the family brand that most millennials have never been bored enough to discover their true passion in the first place.

Millennial Mojo

Millennials are not to be ignored. 15-35 year olds are the largest generation and in two years will outspend baby boomers. Business looks bright for those embracing millennial culture. Engaging and retaining millennial customers, students, and employees has more to do with empathy than reacting to polls and statistics. The same core values pervade each generation, but recognizing modern representations of those values empowers one to understand millennial psyche and positively influence their actions. While they broadcast their “likes” on Facebook, it is less about narcissism than it is about bonding with like-minded people–not unlike wearing your favorite sports team jersey or rock band t-shirt.  Their diminishing interest in religion, advertising, and political rhetoric is a quest for transparency–something that has evaded them most of their lives. By bridging the gap between baby boomers and millennials, both can maintain their principals while finding common ground in which they can excel together.

Minimum Wage and Outsourcing Jobs to Technology

Many argue that raising the minimum wage will encourage outsourcing of jobs to technology (i.e. menu  kiosks in McDonalds), but I contend that there is no connection between the two.   Wages will never influence technology implementation if it adds value and efficiency, or simply doesn’t detract from it.  The cost of automation will continue to decline while cost of living increases; most trades will eventually be automated.

Rather than try to stop such uses of technology, we should encourage it. That frees more people to do what technology can’t—invent, create, and generate ingenuity—but only if we provide the tool for them to do so, which is a good liberal arts education. This is the key to jobs: education that fosters critical thinking which includes the arts and favoring STEAM over STEM (Science Technology, Engineering,  *Arts, and Math).

Let’s not dumb down America or technology to keep jobs.  Let’s educate America to create more, and ones that move us forward.