Tuesday, August 17th, 2010 - 6 comments

Fix the schools…fix the world

Young people of today have the skills and the smarts to handle the world they inherit. But they don’t have the essential confidence in their vision and potential. Without empowerment, they cannot do their best work. This means it’s time to change our schools, change our communities and change our minds.

Youth are the Leaders of today…not tomorrow!

Let’s get one thing straight. Youth can make a difference and I have been watching and empowering youth do so for the past 15 years. The problem we have is that this simple fact is not universally adopted; therefore my opinion is limited to a narrow-minded and micro level viewpoint.

On a larger nationwide scale, the Google Generation is not equipped for the challenges of today and something must be done about it. How can we globally inspire and empower youth, universally mandate a movement of empowerment, and innovatively make achieving the MDG’s the “in thing” and “moral thing” to attain?

Where does the problem begin?

Working in a school system for 8 years in America, I have found many systems surrounding our youth to be disempowering. Witnessing good intentions from youth become squashed by educators, as well as these developing minds being taught “the problem is too big” left me shocked and concerned for the future of our youth. With this mindset what is the collateral effect on their families, our communities, nation and ultimately the world? Is this even being contemplated by our local and world leaders?

I watched daily as the focus of education weighs heavily on passing standardized tests, forced memorization, and just a regurgitation of textbook facts. Youth seem to become verse on how they may work their way through the system and get out of school as soon as possible. Does this create the intellectual leaders we need to achieve the goals of our world? Sadly, I find that youth just want to run home and escape this monotony by getting lost in a video game, or web surfing aimlessly. When does the real thinking and problem solving begin?

Fix the schools…fix the world

Should the goal of schools be to make sure everyone can get a 100 on a test? Should schools be focused on the monetary gains for high grades or should they be focused on empowering youth to be world thinkers, personal achievers, and grounded in creating a road map to personal goals? How did we get to the point we are at now?

In 1924, H.L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury that the aim of public education is not “to fill the young of species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence…nothing could be further from the truth. The aim… is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States.” Can we not see the correlation of this form of education since 1924 and the problems we face in society today?

Solutions

There needs to be a shift in what is possible for youth in the areas of leadership, empowerment, self-esteem, school performance and career planning; a shift from disempowerment, differences and indecision to possibility, tolerance and opportunity. This is the mission statement of the non-profit agency that I founded, Windows of Opportunity, Inc. http://www.wooinc.org. This agency has a history of designing and delivering successful innovative empowerment programs and workshops for youth that develop their leadership skills from various platforms.

This is a global conversation we must begin to have immediately. Programs such as these must be created and adopted worldwide. Then you will see a larger shift towards achieving the goals of the MDG.

Technologically challenged

I am technologically challenged in that I cannot figure out what the latest buttons or touch screens do, and if a message of some sort pops up out of nowhere I am frozen by my computer ignorance. However, almost all youth I have worked with today can use these contraptions with an ease that dumbfounds me. Yet, it is very apparent to me that this generation is not using their technology savvy to their advantage. If youth are taught and fueled by inspiration, critical thinking, passion and faith, then technology would benefit mankind. Our youth will figure out how this will happen. We must trust and give them the opportunity to do so.

I hope that this becomes a reality one day as what I currently see in the eyes of our youth is often a look of fear, confusion, helplessness and despair. Youth are dropping out of schools at a rapid and unacceptable rate, or graduating without a clue to who they are or what they want to do. If youth are to be the leaders of today and have the capacity for deep analytical thought and problem solving, our education system must become grounded as an empowerment based system; with the sole intent to have youth learn the answers to the following three philosophical questions. Who are you? What do you stand for? How will you transform that into society?

Some questions to discuss:

  • What are some of the strategies necessary to change education in our country?
  • How can technology inspire youth to become more involved?
  • What are the challenges in transforming schools to become more empowering sources?


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Guest Editor

Hal Eisenberg

Founder and Executive Director, Windows of Opportunity, Inc. – The Barbara Harmon Institute,

About

Hal Eisenberg has been creating innovative programs for over 15 years. He is Founder and Executive Director of the non profit agency, Windows of Opportunity, Inc. – The Barbara Harmon Institute. WOO creates a shift in what is possible for youth in the areas of leadership, empowerment, self-esteem, school performance and career planning. Hal has established a variety of programs: a counseling program focused on preventing alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse, and related issues; an HIV Peer Empowerment and Leadership Program; the supportive LGBT program, OUTreach; the empowering fashion and modeling program, Shortstack; the eating disorders prevention curriculum and program, The inner You; as well as several additional leadership, educational and arts-based programming. He authored a youth development training manual that consists of 25 ninety minute lessons. Hal holds a Masters Degree in Social Work. He was awarded both the Evelyn Pliego Social Work Student of the Year Award and a City Council Citation.

Comments (6)

Kikelomo
Thursday 26th August, 2010, 11:15am

Hmmmm Hal! I see what you see and it is so scary! Really, the effect of this in years to come will be devastating. Everything you said here is sooo true! I think its a great challenge because that mindset has now become the norm in almost all educational institutions and in most society. Its all about getting 100 in test, its all about who has the most degree and who went to Harvard and stuff.

I guess making this a global conversation is a step to achieving that change of mindset. I have thought about this for so long because I am currently in a school where everything is so messed up, I see all my colleagues struggling to pass even though they have no clue what the course is all about. They all want to have a degree certificate they won't be able to defend at the end of the day.

Even though I know am smart, I feel it will be wrong for me to say I have a B.Sc Degree in Sociology when I finally graduate because I wasn't taught Jack! Even lecturers do not understand the weight of their profession.

Hal Eisenberg
Friday 27th August, 2010, 2:51am

Thank you for responding. You make such a great point that the mindset has become the norm, therefore, where many of us see logic in changing the approach to our education system, many see that we cannot make a shift because it is too complicated. Add up the issues in the system, issues in our home lives, politics, and more bureaucracy, it is no wonder that the well being and individual motivation and values development of our youth are lost.

A global and constant conversation is needed and that is a start, but it is imperative that we take action as soon as possible because fast forward another ten, maybe twenty years with the same system, the outcome is not going to be fixable. Society is only going to struggle more and what happens then?

I actually had a debate with a family member, who is also an educator over this blog. She stated that she thought I was a little harsh on my viewpoints of the system not empowering youth but then in the same breath she stated how she was frustrated because most of her kids failed the Regents and it was her job (according to her principals instructions) to find a way "creatively" to pass them. Talk about contradicting yourself! What good does that do? Our system is trying to fix the problem from the wrong end. Covering up and pushing students through is not what works! I have kids I work with who cant read and write but are graduating high school. This is more common than you would think.

The answer to me is to listen to youth - empower them - inspire. Educate where they are at. Our educational institutions are not getting the job done to give us "a better world."

What are other nations doing that we aren't doing in the U.S. I want to hear from them as well. Please - share your thoughts with us. Thanks!

Erna Surjadi
Monday 30th August, 2010, 4:12am

Bravo Hal!
I started just recently put attention to youth after long working time to support a better world within gender equality and equity! My team target is elimination of poverty and hunger.
Prevention is better than cure; handling the youth save the time and ensure better products of living!

My kids were having childhood in US; but they were grown up in Indonesia and Singapore. The best education they had in US was the material on teaching them to be themselves, confident to speak up, rational and fight for survival (maybe due to we were foreigners, me and husbands were studying overthere). The information communication technology (ICT) help them growing faster; however good philosophy is certainly needed. Parents and teachers could help them built the coping mechanism to all future stressors that they may face in live.
My husband is a lecturer; we both were Sunday school teachers when were younger. We told them many people's experiences performed by others and let them choose the goodness for their future. We hope they have never failed by mistakes. They slipped sometimes but never fell down. My first son is now country director, my second son is in Europe to get internship with Yahoo in finalizing his PhD for the next couple years.

Young people - it is your choice to be what you are going to be; but it is true school is the best place to learn and dont wait till you faced it in the real life! Prepare your better future and never joined youth living with HIV, narcotics, alcohol etc; you are the leader starting to yourself with good material and best choices to survive and lead family/others for a better living in the future!

Experiences is bad teacher due to giving examinations before the lectures - but other people's experiences is the good teacher for your future life!

All the best!
May God bless you!

E.Surjadi
A career woman, wife, mother and grand-mother.

vinita upreti
Thursday 2nd September, 2010, 8:09am

Hal...The imperative focus which is missing in all kinds and forms of formal education today is.....the "SOUL"......
WE manage to create expert scientists,doctors,engineers....and what have you .......but they all are very much like the most technically advanced supercomputers produced .....the HUMAN ....the HUMANE...ELEMENT.....has evaporated......
Other wise it is hard to imagine that .....when so much of, means of welfare are available to people of certain countries ......absolutely abject opposite conditions are existing in other countries.....and if these developed countries feel that .....they can live well in immunized isolation it is so wrong.....all that education has failed miserably.......and when education fails.....Humanity fails......and then we find rouge elements like fundamentalists and jealous zealots.....take over.....
Energy can not be created or destroyed.....it is transmitted from one plane to another.......
No energy can flow in an incomplete circuit.....and if our education instills a false sense of pride and nurtures a petty EGO that ..only WE ..matter.....then it is a process of devolution as opposed to evolution.......
So to all those venerated centres of learning.....learn the basic fact that .....this education has to be used for the welfare and benefit of HUMANITY......nay for the entire Creation ...animate or inanimate.............and not just become an onion peeling exercise.

Hal Eisenberg
Friday 8th October, 2010, 7:29pm

Thank you Erna and Vinita for your comments! Erna, I was a Sunday School teacher as well! Many moons ago. I truly stand for empowerment of youth in this world. I believe formal education is failing in so many areas - especially America. We are 25th out of 30 developing countiries in Math and Science and if you look at the top 5% only in each of those countries, we are last. I cannot help but wonder if we should have complete educational reform, but do not want to come across as a radical. I wonder if our approach should be more along the lines of self esteem and world leadership infused into our mainstream approach to educating our youth. What do the youth understand - what do they love - who are they - how do we get them to transform that into help ing our planet? These are the questions we should be asking and acting on. The SOUL is so important and shouldnt be an onion peeling exercise. It should be a source of energy - a complete centered understanding of who you are and what you are about. Education is failing and you raise a good point... is humanity failing? Well, I tell you that is unacceptable to me and I will wave the flag to total reform then... and I think my agency has the programs to do so.

ssdt
Saturday 11th December, 2010, 11:17pm

I agree with the fact that fixing schools would lead to a fix for the future. Schools are where children learn and if it is there that they learn to act righteously, then the children of today will have a bright future for the world of tomorrow. The other reason also is that as I can see in the United States, New York City public schools are lacking much of the benefits a children should receive. That is why they are acting inappropriately in various cases. For example, New York City has a very high high school dropout rate due to the "freedom" that these youths receive. They find it as an ordinary fact that their parents cannot force them to do what the parent feels like and that is why the children drops out. This is affecting both poverty level in the city as well as the crime rate in the city.

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