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  Friday January 30th, 2015    

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Fortune favors the prepared mind (01/28/2007)
President, Cotter Schools

During the industrial age in America, schools were fashioned in the image of assembly lines. Schools took on the look and feel of mechanistic structures in order to produce a standardized product, the labor force required for a booming industrial society. The machine-age thinking of schools branded students as products and commodities rather than sustained innovators and entrepreneurs of learning.

During his recent State of the State address, Governor Tim Pawlenty described U.S. high schools as obsolete. He said too many students are "bored, checked out, coasting, not even vaguely aware of their post-high school plans or opportunities." In order to accommodate a variety of learners with whom schools are engaged every day, educational leaders and community members have to recognize and end the damages inherent in assembly line practices and get away from one-size-fits-all classrooms.

Because business is becoming interdependent, dynamic, and global, employers of tomorrow will increasingly look for workers who are intrinsically motivated, curious, collaborative, effective communicators, and critical thinkers. Today the world is connected in ways never before possible. Digitization, virtualization, and automation have permeated the way we interact. Everyone in every place has the potential to be a neighbor, collaborator, and facilitator. Ideas can be shared and explored at the click of a mouse with colleagues a half a world a way. Because of these and other realities, the needs of the workforce have changed.

There is no doubt that U.S. high schools need to make changes in order to best prepare upcoming generations of students for an ever changing and interconnected world. Learning needs to be personalized and made relevant to each student's interests and abilities. Embracing various teaching methodologies and multiple intelligences practices is required. More rigorous math and science instruction is essential. Providing inclusive, multicultural education and understanding should be intensified. The list could go on.

Ultimately, schools need to prepare students for the global knowledge/information age, and they will need to change their practices in order to do so. The future of our economy as well as maintaining a strong standard of living for future generations depends on schools' and universities' development of intellectual capital. The world is becoming increasingly separated into the "haves" and the "have nots." Far more than in previous generations, the most educated of society will have advantages over the less educated.

As part of Catholic Schools Week, we are once again taking the time to reflect how best to prepare our young people. The world's future leaders are already here. The priorities we place in educating today's students will have a profound impact on our future. One of the best things we can do for our children is to provide the finest education possible. As Louis Pasteur said, "Fortune favors the prepared mind."  


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