Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat, forecasts our economic economic future and the need for a workforce prepared to compete in the high tech job market. In a recent editorial in the New York Times, Friedman grabbed my attention with his thoughts on “learning how to learn.”
There’s a huge undertow of worry out in the country about how our kids are being educated and whether they’ll be able to find jobs in an increasingly flat world, where more Chinese, Indians and Russians than ever can connect, collaborate and compete with us. In three different cities I had parents ask me some version of: “My daughter [or son] is studying Chinese in high school. That’s the right thing to do, isn’t it?”
Not being an educator, I can’t give any such advice. But my own research has taught me that the most important thing you can learn in this era of
heightened global competition is how to learn. Being really good at “learning how to learn,” as President Bill Brody of Johns Hopkins put it,
will be an enormous asset in an era of rapid change and innovation, when new jobs will be phased in and old ones phased out faster than ever.
Okay, one ninth grader in St. Paul asked me, then “what courses should I take?” How do you learn how to learn? Hmm. Maybe, I said, the best way to
learn how to learn is to go ask your friends: “Who are the best teachers?” Then – no matter the subject – take their courses. When I think back on my
favorite teachers, I don’t remember anymore much of what they taught me, but I sure remember being excited about learning it.
If you’re a teacher reading this blog, I hope that Friedman’s words strike a chord that resonates loudly throughout every aspect of your teaching. Let’s face it, many of our students will not remember the facts that we’ve imparted or even the subject we tried to teach – that’s just the cold, hard truth. Personally, I have a hard time remembering all of the information that I should have learned from my European History class in high school. But I’ll never forget my European History teacher, Tom Roberts. More than facts, Tom Roberts taught me to appreciate the art of learning by giving me the gift of an unforgettable learning experience.