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12 questions for the 21st century

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The global village and the flattened world are no longer the arcane ideas or metaphors of academics and scholars. Nor is global warming an invention of ideologists with a political agenda. They are as real as the security guards in our schools and the poverty that stalks too many children in the world. As our climate changes and borders and boundaries of all kinds blur, I offer the following questions to help educators ground the coming year with a renewed sense of resolve and hopefulness. And above all, the conviction that we are all global citizens of a crowded planet requiring all the goodness, understanding and stewardship we can generate.

1. How do we grow global mindedness in every child and youth in this country? Why does it matter?

2. How do we leverage the immense power and potential of the Internet, digital tools and social media to enable learners and teachers to connect in purposeful ways across borders and boundaries to contribute to making the world a safer, saner and more just place?

3. How can we support and encourage all teachers to internationalize their classrooms, their curricula and every aspect of their practices?

4. Why is education the linchpin for democratic living?

5. When is the last time you paused to reconsider a bias, prejudice or an assumption you have held without wondering about its efficacy or origin or accuracy?

6. How do we assure that schools, after-school programs and community-based settings are dynamic places that surround children and youth with opportunities to be connected and exposed to the world and not isolated and segregated from it?

7. Why does cultivating broad mindedness, resiliency, curiosity, imagination and the ability to work with others matter?

8. How do we tap into all learners’ sense of agency, idealism and their social imaginations, i.e. their capacity to imagine the world, as it should be, and the tools and capacities to act?

9. Why is it more urgent than ever to make education relevant and meaningful as a way to transform lives and not stultify them?

10. How do we say “yes” each day we step into our classrooms to the proposition that we are all midwives in the messy, challenging and exhilarating vocation of teaching?

11. How do we move away from the pursuit of the right answer to the capacity to generate profound questions? From the single-minded adherence to the lesson plan to spurring the insatiable desire to learn more?

12. How do we become polyglots of instruction? Ambidextrous teachers with an ensemble of practices that stir the multiple intelligences of our students?

There are no right answers here. But there are invitations to reexamine the very basis of why we entered this most honorable of callings in the first place. One question at a time.

David Penberg is an urban and international educational leader. Most recently he headed Stevens Cooperative School as an interim, and prior to that he was head of school at the Benjamin Franklin International School in Barcelona and head of studies at the American School Foundation in Mexico City.