International Opinion

I Approve This Message

By Anthony Jackson — September 07, 2012 3 min read
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Americans have heard all the convention speeches. The question is, what stood out to you? My colleague Brandon Wiley, the director of Asia Society’s International Studies Schools Network (and former social studies teacher) shares his thoughts regarding education.

by Brandon Wiley

Like millions of Americans, I have been captivated by the national political conventions. I’ve watched with particular interest as speakers from both parties outline their views on education. During the Democratic convention, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro’s message that “opportunity leads to prosperity” resonated with me. In particular, his assertion that educational opportunity leads to prosperity just makes sense.

This single phrase highlights the reason why educators do what they do everyday. We teach to create possibility. We teach to contribute to our communities and society at large. We teach to preserve the fundamental beliefs of this country. Increasingly though, we must realize that we also teach to ensure our economic stability and competitiveness. The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) has statistical data, across dozens of nations, that those nations who have 15 year-old critical thinkers will be more economically competitive in coming years.

When many of us were in school, we had to memorize a lot. But now that we have smart phones in our pockets, remembering facts is not as important as being able to apply knowledge. And speaking of smart phones, did you know that one of the most in-demand workers today is that of an app developer? It’s a job that didn’t exist five years ago. Many jobs of the future do not yet exist today. So how do we create educational opportunities in the global innovation economy?

We need a new type of education that develops globally competent students. We need to give students real-world learning experiences through deeper learning strategies that promote critical thinking, collaboration, and the ability to communicate effectively. We need to provide students opportunities to learn how to learn.

When Casto recounted his Ivy League education, he thought about his classmates from San Antonio who had the same talent, brains, and dreams that he had. He stated, “I realized the difference wasn’t one of intelligence or drive. The difference was opportunity.”

In Mayor Castro’s own city of San Antonio, you will find schools committed to providing students access to learning opportunities that prepare them for college and the world beyond.
Students and teachers at the International School of the Americas (ISA), for example, use their education to improve themselves, their school, and the local and global community. Through relevant and rigorous curriculum and learning experiences both in and out of school, students apply the content they’ve learned in meaningful ways. They learn about their place in the world and how they can make a difference.

In far too many communities in the United States, students still do not have opportunities for this type of learning. Many students are subjected to outdated curricula, rote-learning experiences, and inadequate resources. A student’s future trajectory should not be determined simply by the ZIP code in which they live. Regardless of the outcome in the upcoming Presidential election, as I pointed out in my last blog post, education must be viewed as the single greatest equalizer and antidote for many of the ills we face as a nation. Ensuring equitable opportunities for rigorous, high-quality schools for all students is a goal we must achieve. Investing in our children is just good business. But more importantly, to provide equal access to an excellent education for all students, regardless of race, religion, or economic status, is what America, the land of opportunity, is all about.

The opinions expressed in Global Learning are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.