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Educating our children for the future is almost impossible

One hundred years ago, many schools in Europe and in the United States wanted to adapt to the challenges of the new century. Educators in 1911 wanted to identify and teach those “necessary skills” students should learn to be successful in the 20th century. In 2011, educators are looking for “necessary skills” for the 21st century. They should learn from the past.

In a column published by Education Week on September 14, 2011, teacher Christopher Doyle, from Connecticut, explains that none of those who wanted to reform schools in 1911were able to pinpoint with accuracy the skills needed for the 20th century. Therefore, we can conclude that something similar is happening now regarding the skills for our century.

According to Doyle, those promoting school reforms a century ago missed important cultural and scientific elements, such as Freud’s psychoanalysis, Einstein’s new physics, Gandhi’s non-violent approach to change, and Picasso’s new artistic expressions. And they missed all those elements even when Freud, Einstein, Gandhi, and Picasso were already developing their ideas.

Doyle suggests school reformers of the past never anticipated the need to teach radically new elements simply because they were never in touch with those thinkers and innovators who developed those new ideas. According to Doyle, a century later, school reformers still do not talk with thinkers and innovators, but mostly with business people and politicians.

When education administrators ask politicians and business leaders what kind of skills they want teachers to teach at schools, the answers is a “reform” that, paradoxically, will be implemented to keep things the way they are. However, in another paradoxical twist, things do change, and they change in ways neither educators or futurists can anticipate.

The issue of how to educate our youth to be successful in the 21st century is of supreme interest to Latinos, because almost half of the Hispanic population in the United States is 18 or younger.

Unfortunately, many of those children and teenagers do not receive the education they need and deserve, due in part to the fact that those deciding how and what to teach to Latinos seldom know Latinos, seldom consult with the appropriate persons, and very seldom delegate the task of teaching to those who know how to do it.

It is almost impossible to anticipate the future. The best educational minds of 1911 were unable to do it, failing to anticipate computers, globalization, interplanetary exploration, and other elements now common in 2011.

But if to the lack of knowledge about the future we add the lack of knowledge of the present, that is, the fact that many teachers do not know who Latinos are or how to communicate with them, the education becomes twice useless, because it does not addresses any current needs and it does not prepare for the future.

We do not know what the future may hold for our children. However, we do know that we should not leave their education in the hands of those who do not even know our children.

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