President's Corner

Leading Schools for Global Literacy

by Sarah D. Jerome

We all know the world is changing rapidly and that international relationship-building is absolutely essential to achieving economic, political and intellectual harmony around the world. As such, educators must do a better job of helping our students become fluent in world languages, economics, geopolitics and world cultures so they can contribute to the peaceful, productive world we envision.

Educator and futurist Gary Marx, in his book Sixteen Trends: Their Profound Impact on Our Future, tells us we must set the stage for students to learn more about all cultures, to learn diplomatic skills, to respect an interdependent world where we all demonstrate tolerance and appreciation of differences. We are, in fact, a family of nations and must create schools where learning about the world and learning to live in harmony are basic lessons for all children.

We are the orchestrators and facilitators of learning. All of our efforts are driven by the common goal of developing future generations of truly global citizens. We are working for a better world — not for ourselves, but for all the world’s children and their children’s children.

We must be the pioneers in establishing and in leading schools for the global age. The 1998 National Teacher of the Year, Philip Bigler, shares this sobering thought: “[I]f we fail to successfully teach and educate our young people, we are just one generation removed from barbarism. I have always seen my role as a teacher to facilitate student learning in what will be a lifelong quest for knowledge, to help ignite in them the spark of enlightenment, to motivate their interest and to cultivate their minds.”

If we believe that education is the path to unleashing the genius and humanity in every child, then building bridges to increased international understanding and appreciation is essential.

In his book, Dreams from My Father, Sen. Barack Obama writes that it is hard work to understand people who don’t think and act the same as you or I. But we must be committed to that hard work if we are to build bridges that will reunite us. Our future depends on it.

Further, I recommend you visit www.21stcenturyskills.org, the website for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and www.internationaled.org, which is part of a larger initiative, directed by Asia Society, called Asia and International Studies in the Schools. Both sites have great information about education in a global society.

Hero Profile: Steve Curwood
Steve Curwood is the creator, executive producer and host of National Public Radio’s “Living on Earth,” which reaches more than a million listeners each week. He also is the founder of The Ecological Literacy Project, which helps fund environmental study and science-based radio journalism projects for middle-level and high school students in inner city and rural schools across the country. Students explore their local communities and produce their own shows about environmental issues that surround them.

An activist for environmental consciousness, Curwood shared this during his April 21, 2000, broadcast: “Of all the issues Americans marched about in 1970, only the environment has gotten worse. Population has almost doubled since the first Earth Day. Species are going extinct faster and faster. Open space and wilderness are disappearing. ... Pollution is also changing the climate in ways that scientists could barely imagine back in 1970. In short, life as we know and love it is changing profoundly.”

Although Steve Curwood is the recipient of many awards, including a shared Pulitzer Prize for Public Service as part of The Boston Globe education team, he also merits the gratitude of educators who appreciate his work to increase opportunities for students to learn about their world — our world — and how to improve it.

Sarah Jerome is AASA president in 2007-08. E-mail: jerome@ahsd25.k12.il.us