America: Land of (Missed) Opportunity?

America: Land of (Missed) Opportunity?
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As a history teacher I spent a lot of time reading and sharing immigrant stories. We have seen countless movies and TV series and news stories about poor, down-trodden immigrants who left everything behind to wait for the Statue of Liberty to come into view; coming to America for an opportunity for a better life for themselves and their children. Immigrants worked long, hard hours to provide for their families, send their children to school, and all around have a better life. It wasn’t just immigrants, though. Citizen or immigrant, you worked hard to make a better life for your kids. 

Fast forward to the 21st century.

When did this storyline change, exactly? When did we stop working hard to make our kids’ lives better? 

Comments I hear today: 

  • This is the way I did school, so this is the way kids should have to do school.
  • I didn’t have a fancy computer, kids should be writing things out by hand.
  • I spent hours and hours in the library researching through books – do kids today even know how to do that?
  • Do kids today even know how to use an encyclopedia? We’re setting our kids up for failure.

Doing things because they’ve always been done that way is not a reason to continue doing so. Forcing kids into hours worth of meaningless homework and out-dated research isn’t making them a better student, more ready for the “real world,” or guaranteeing entrance into that great school. 

I wrote a post similar to this a while back, but many of the same conversations are resurfacing. In that post I wrote, “It looks like somebody missed the memo that Encyclopedia Britannica stopped printing encyclopedias after its 2010 volume, citing that it had long since moved toward a business focus on its online educational materials. 

I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but as a parent of 3 awesome kids, I do not wake up in the morning saying, “I hope your life is hard, because mine was, and I made it.” I work my butt off to make sure they have the tools they need to be successful. I want them to not only have the amazing experiences I did growing up, but to give them bigger, better, more exciting opportunities.”

But this time I want to frame it differently. I want to challenge you to think about how our teaching style is serving kids who will grow up with problems very different from our own. Everyone has problems – you have problems, your parents had problems, your kids have problems. But those problems look very different from generation to generation.

Our children aren’t growing up in a world where they have to change their research topic because it’s too difficult to find information. They are growing up in a world where there is too much information, and they need guidance in understanding what information is great, and what information is crap.

Remember all those stupid things you and your buddies did back in junior high, high school, and college? Imagine if all of those things had been recorded and broadcast to the world. You know which things I’m talking about. But the evidence hasn’t been published on SnapChat or Twitter, so the only ones that know about it are the few of you that were there, and nobody is telling because you’d all get in trouble.

Well your kids don’t have that luxury. Everything they do and say is open to being published, parodied, copied and pasted, screen shotted, and otherwise publicly broadcast to the world. That stupid picture you took in high school? Guess what – you just got turned down for a job because of it. Your students need to know how to protect themselves and create a positive online image. 

Everyone has problems. Those problems are just different. We cannot miss an opportunity to create successful leaders today, because we’re stuck teaching them the lessons we learned yesterday, with the methods we learned yesterday. 

Our students will face bigger challenges and have better opportunities than we ever did – our job today as teachers is to make sure our kids are prepared for a world in which we don’t know what tomorrow looks like. Educate for the tomorrow your students will see, not the yesterday you once saw.


Cross posted from my blog