2008-05-09 Holland Sentinel "COLUMN: Prepare our youth for a diverse world"

COLUMN: Prepare our youth for a diverse world
The Holland Sentinel

Holland, MI —

In preparing for the upcoming Summit on Racism, I read a thought-provoking book, “Debunking the Middle Class Myth” by Eileen Kugler. The author challenges the reader’s thinking and explores numerous opportunities for a diverse community to engage families, educators and community leaders to search for ways to enrich lives and ultimately strengthen a community’s future through diversity.

According to another author, Sonia Nieto, “We do our children a disservice when we prepare them to live in a society that no longer exists. Given the tremendous diversity of our society, it makes eminent good sense to educate all of our children to be comfortable with differences.”

Regardless of our role in the community, we all have the potential to influence our youth as we prepare them for a globalized society and diverse world. It behooves every community leader and educator to engage in the community conversation about diversity.

The Holland area has been fortunate to have several authors and speakers visit us in the past year to engage us in conversations about the needs of the future and share their perspectives for developing and remaining an economically vibrant community.

In the fall, Bill Millett stressed the economic imperative of providing quality early childhood programs for all children. He provided evidence indicating a significant return on investment if we stand ready to prepare all children for their life long educational journey. A well-developed pre-K program will ensure children have the necessary skills to meet with success early on, which will serve them well as they grow and develop into productive citizens.

In one of his many publications, he stated, “In this new global economy, businesses are requiring workers and educational systems to develop students who have the creative capacity to dream and design as well as build. They must be able to interact with people who have different values and beliefs. While they need the ability to question and think critically, they must also be able to communicate effectively and work cooperatively with co-workers across the globe.”

Daniel Pink, author of “A Whole New Mind,” piqued our interest and nudged our thoughts about who stands ready to “rule the world.” He stated, “The future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind: designers, inventors, and teachers, storytellers — creative and emphatic ‘right brained’ thinker, big picture thinkers — whose abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who doesn’t.”

Pink and Millett shared their insights about the need to view our diverse world differently, support creativity and challenge our own thinking as we wrestle with the future. Both speakers, and Eileen Kugler, encourage their audiences to create and provide work environments and classrooms that are rich in culture and open to new ideas, where students and employees are engaged and continuous learning is a mainstay. Diversity and acceptance of the thinking of others contribute to the robust exchange of ideas, which is essential to quality solutions and new learning.

Each day our thinking is artfully prodded. Many people in our community have redesigned themselves to maintain marketability. We are seeking solutions, trying to develop effective and efficient modes of transportation, economical fuel and power options, new medical opportunities and environmentally friendly communities. The solutions to these issues will emerge through inclusivity and the powerful thinking of many. There is a sense of urgency to ensure our next generation is prepared to compete in a diverse world that requires an ever changing skill set to meet with success.

Helen Keller wrote: “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.”