Aug 23, 2011

Revisiting “High Noon” & Educational Relevance

It’s been eight years since the landmark book “High Noon” by Jean Francois Rischard was published.  In the book, he outlined 20 global problems that we face and urged the reader to find collaborative ways in which to solve them.  The problems were severe then, and still are today, and getting worse by the minute.  They included:

Problems of Planet:

  • Global warming
  • Ecosystem losses
  • Fisheries depletion
  • Deforestation
  • Water deficits
  • Maritime safety and pollution

 Problems of Humanity:

  • Poverty
  • Peacekeeping and prevention of terrorism
  • Education for all
  • Global infectious diseases
  • Digital divide
  • Natural disaster prevention and mitigation

 Problems Needing Global Regulation:

  • Reinventing taxation for the 21st century
  • Biotechnology rules
  • Financial architecture
  • Illegal drugs
  • Trade, investment, and competition 
  • Intellectual property rules
  • E-commerce rules
  • International labor and migration rules

If these are the problems of our times, how are we truly preparing students to address them?  It seems that me that we are still mired in the past in our thinking.  We are preoccupied with such inadequate measures of success, such as narrow outcomes (college placement, job acquisition, or earning potential) or, better yet, how we get a leg up on China or India as a nation in our education system.  

I often think about the purpose of education.  Is it merely to get a good job and live a comfortable life?  Is it to find the intersection of passion and purpose in one’s life?  Or, is it to enable us to leverage our collective skills and knowledge to advance humanity.  Worthy purposes, for sure, but still I think we need to reframe our thinking about education beyond simply college and career preparation.  

Now, how do we sell this to prospective students?  Actually, I am not worried about them.  It’s their parents that have me baffled.