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Back To School Message

A Message To Parents Teachers and Students

As my daughter headed out to school this morning for the start of her senior year I started to think what I might want her to hone in on this year.  Here are a few of thoughts.

1.  Stop asking What are you there for? and start asking What’s the school there for?  

Once the industrial age kicked in, and as more families switched out working on the farm for working in the factory more and more families began sending their children to schools in the hopes that an education would make them employable.  Additionally factories needed lots of productive workers and saw schools as a way to help produce them.  So schools began training students in the ways that would would make them good workers (has anyone ever said to you “Get a good education so you can get a good job”?).  That’s why you raise your hand to answer questions, stand/sit in lines, and wear uniforms (it’s how factories functioned).  Everyone acts and looks mostly the same.  It’s how America built the worlds largest middle class.  If you’ll learn, and obey the rules you can get rich.

But here’s the problem – the Industrial Age has ended, and it’s been replaced by the Connected Economy.  The new Connected Economy does not reward compliance, things that look like, nor act like everything else.  In fact it punishes compliance, sameness, and normalcy.  To see this you need look no further than how Google decides which pieces of content make it to the first page of it’s search engine.  Content that’s original, surprises us, and that’s fresh is rewarded with top page rank, while content that’s considered duplicate (the same as other stuff), or normal is punished with low page rank.

So while the Connected Economy is punishing normal, teachers go to Normal Schools to teach our kids to be normal.  No wonder so many educated people are finding it difficult to earn a living in the new Connected Economy.

Here’s the lesson in all this – We’re no longer in the industrial age and many of the things that enabled success in that system are now useless.  A new age requires new skills, new thinking, a new way of operating.  Jesus put it this way.  “You can’t put old wine, in a new wine skin.  If you do the new wine skin will break and both the old and new wine will be wasted.”

2.  Hard Work Out Works Talent When Talent Won’t Work.  

Hmm…but what should students work hard at?  Schools tend to reward the students who do the best jobs memorizing the text book, or the athlete that scores the most points, or the kid the sings the best, etc.  All useless in a connected economy.  What good is memorizing information that’s alway’s just a Google search away.  If during their most informative years a student athlete learns that points scored is valued over kindness to people why are we so surprised when professional athletes abuse their spouses at alarming rates?

But what if we found ways to value the students that, although they might not be the best, but worked the hardest.  What if we fast tracked the kids that show the most kindness to their fellow students.  What if we encouraged the kid that learned everything he could on a subject he loves by watching TED videos at night, and then shows up each day at school with a new thought or question for his teacher.  What if we elevated the kid that will never come close to being Sergei Rachmaninov but plays the piano simply because she loves it.

3. Eight Things, +7 More, Worth Working Really Hard At

So here are eight things a connected economy rewards and that’d I’d like to see students, schools, and parents working hard at this year and long into the future.

  1. Show up and be remarkable because simply showing up is not enough anymore
  2. Seek cooperative opportunities and shun compliance
  3. Dare to speak up…but only use words to build up others not tear them down
  4. Surprise and delight us
  5. Ship, Ship, Ship, and Ship some more (this means to finish lots of projects)
  6. Be kind
  7. Fail early and often
  8. Always be building bridges, and winning fans

Here are 7 more things anyone can do to be successful in a connected economy.

 

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