America’s economy, infrastructure (airports, ports, bandwidth, bridges, rail system, etc.), educational system, open door to immigration, and safe guards to the natural environment and intellectual (encouragements to increase capital flow and innovation) environment have been what Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum have labeled as America’s historic “pillars of prosperity”.* These pillars are less than ‘at their best’ right now. As a result, America has, as Friedman and Mandelbaum have observed, fallen “behind in the world it invented”. They make the points, and I agree,
~ that our economy is looking for critical thinkers who can successfully engage with complex tasks and work collaboratively with others – this is different than being a nation with many workers engaged in routine manufacturing jobs.
~ that our infrastructures are weakening, these were and need to continue to be, one of our major assets in relation to other countries around the globe.
~ that our public educational system is broke – many children are underserved and the system is not effectively preparing all graduates to play significant roles in the global economy.
~ that our country has dramatically benefited from immigrants who have started businesses and made major contributions to America’s past success and that we will need to continue and expand the practices of welcoming immigrants into the future.
~ that our natural environment and the creative environments both need to protected and evolved for America to come back as a global leader.
Do you believe that America’s potential for thriving in the future is connected to responding with affirmative resolve and consistent effort to the challenges we face in our economy, infrastructure, educational system, immigration policy, and safe guards to our natural and intellectual environments? If so, then what is your or my role as educators?
Thomas Jefferson said, “The moral sense, or conscience, is as much part of a man as his leg or arm. It is given to all in a stronger or weaker degree. It may be strengthened by exercise.” Do you and I have some ‘strengthening’ to do related to our ‘moral sense or conscience’ or associated to the fact that if we don’t get involved in making things better – our children and grandchildren will likely inherit an America of less opportunity than the America we have enjoyed? And what can you and I do as educators?
Do we somehow think that others can solve the situations we face for us? Is there evidence that that is so?
Are we hesitant because we are concerned about how messy and difficult the work ahead will be?
You and I need to consider if we agree that “America fell behind in the world it invented”. If the conclusion is that the premise is wrong and America is fine then we have no work to do. If we see a clear need to address a situation that begs for improvement then now is a time to as President Kennedy said 50 years ago: “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.”
From my point of view: We have some thinking to do together!
Image by love2dreamfish via flickr