Why we should be focusing on leadership and action today, not developing leaders for tomorrow.
In September 2015, 193 world leaders agreed to 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. If these Goals are completed, it would mean an end to extreme poverty, inequality and climate change by 2030.
The United Nations Global Goals provide a strong push for all humanity, and hence all of us in schools, to focus on what is important and urgent for us to be addressing and to identify the needs to be woven into our curriculum as ‘main ideas’ and areas for inquiry, innovation and action. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reminds us of our shared humanity and rights and the Goals provide real world challenges for us to investigate, and to take action in order to effect change. And, while it is easy to be skeptical that individual action can make a difference, anyone who has ever heard Jane Goodall speak will appreciate the power of her ‘roots and shoots’ metaphor: individual blades of grass can, over time grow up through the cracks in a concrete path and overwhelm it. Working individually and together with a shared purpose can change even the greatest barriers.
In our globally connected world we need to collectively own our issues; in our schools we need to focus on what kids can do and empower them to innovate and take action. In the International Baccalureate (IB), this strong thread is articulated in the various ‘Service and Action’ programmes across the Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP), and the Diploma Programme (DP).
We live in a world undergoing an exponential transformation under the influence of globalization and technology, but yet too often in schools we focus on teaching tech skills as a measurable end in themselves and we control what should be learned and when, rather than focusing on the power of technology and social media to empower kids to be inquirers, thinkers, innovators, and leaders.
In contrast to this practice, George Couros describes the term ‘Digital Leadership’, defining it as “using the vast reach of technology to improve the lives, well being, and circumstances of others.” To this definition I suggest we add the concepts of “improving our environment” and “creating the future.” In a recent blog post he challenges us to focus on the fantastic things that kids are doing with technology right now that is making a difference. Take for instance the teen who created the “Sit With Us” app, to help students find welcoming students to join during lunch. Or the 9 year old, “Little Miss Flint”, becoming a voice of a city and educating people about the water crisis in her city of Flint, Michigan.
Couros’ stories are inspiring and remind us of the importance of sharing and celebrating these success stories. Couros challenges us not to talk about developing “leaders for the future”, but to support kids get on with being leaders and entrepreneurs today. He also challenges us not to think about these examples as “exceptional” or “remarkable”, but rather as what should be the new “normal” to expect in our schools.