On Sept. 15, the White House announced Digital Promise, a new public-private initiative created by Congress to advance learning technologies. Specifically, this project is designed to transform the way our children learn. The education, business, and research communities have come together to identify cutting edge technologies intended to make learning faster and more effective.
Digital Promise recognizes that technology is radically impacting the job market in ways that are unprecedented in human history. Experts predict that many jobs that exist today will be irrelevant in the next 10 years. Likewise, jobs that exist in today’s market such as sustainability directors, social media managers and bloggers didn’t even exist 10 years ago.
So while it is necessary to debate the important issues of school choice and merit pay for teachers, we should not ignore a more fundamental question: Are we preparing our children for jobs that will not exist? So often our definition of education is tied to a system that was developed in the early 20th century, instead of being seen as a process.
The reality is that if our young people are not technologically savvy, they will be unemployed. Related questions concern when and where education should take place. Confining learning to a classroom for six to seven hours per day may be an outdated and unrealistic model.
The political discussions often scapegoat the teachers; however, I believe that the church and other community organizations should support the efforts of parents, teachers, school administrators and policymakers in a new and different way. It is not their fight alone.
So on Oct. 26, Enon will be transformed into a think tank for student-led discussions around the future of education in the Philadelphia public schools and how that system can ensure that our children are prepared to function in the marketplace.
Neither Digital Promise nor its programs, however, should be considered a substitute for engaged parents and a community that supports and nurtures its children, for that has always been among the strongest predictors of academic success.
Parents, community engagement and proper funding are a necessary part of the process of properly educating our children. I am reminded of a scene in the movie “Akeelah and the Bee,” when Akeelah was studying for the spelling bee and all of the community began to help her, even the drug dealers. While I am not advocating for drug dealers as tutors, this is a reminder that it takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to train a child.
I am convinced that if parents will assume their responsibility, and if communities will accept the reality that communal expectations raise and or lower the possibilities of our children, then I believe we can change the path of this next generation.
The Rev. Dr. Alyn Waller is the senior pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church.