December 7, 2021
How can education prepare our children for the 21st Century
The topic for the session tonight was how can education prepare our children for the 21st century. Our Imaginator was Esther wood JIKI, the author of How to Raise successful people. She started out telling us some incredibly important lessons from her early days, she grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family where girls had a second class position and we're meant to cook and marry among other things. Her mother was from Siberia, her father from Ukraine, and she was the first child born in the US. She told us that at the age of 10, her younger brother of two at the time died from taking aspirin and being told by the mother being told by a doctor to just put the child to bed. And she said that absolutely. Searing lesson left her always learning to challenge authority and not follow it. And she believed that that event really helped to shape her life. She refused to get married initially and all finances got cut off when she decided to go to college. It seems like a high price. She got a scholarship from UC Berkeley, luckily and took a bus out there. But she said she really grew up with an amazing sense of self determinism and just a sense that she needed to challenge authority. Part of her thesis that she shared with our audience so powerfully tonight is that her number one goal for her children and children she taught was to be independent thinkers. She said you have to give the kids the ability to think early and the first thing she taught her daughters was how to swim then how to read street signs. In case they got lost, and then how to use numbers that they could dial phones. She wanted daughters who could think on their own and who could question. And I think she got more than that. As she described to us, she had three very different daughters who pulled in different directions. And it was fascinating to hear about some of the early days but Susan, who many of us know as the CEO of YouTube started out very even tempered and level headed. Janet had more of a daredevil personality, which I would never have known. With her number one goal to out beat her sister Susan became a Fulbright scholar and, and, of course, became the CEO of 20 are founder of 23andme, and a competitive ice skater. So it was fascinating to hear how much adaptation was required for each of the daughters. But Aster started in Palo Alto High School with 20 kids in a journalism program that today is the largest journalism program in the nation. And it was really her students who came up with a trick acronym that is outlined in her latest book where T stands for trust us, R stands for respect us, I stands for independence. C stands for collaboration, and K stands for kindness, caring about them as students and as people. And those really are the main lessons that Esther discovered with her own children, but also with the children she taught. And she told us throughout the call, these are also useful for adults, and there may be another book coming to help those of us who are later on in life, she said, The most important thing is to really help children to know how to take on challenges and to how to empower the people we work with. She talked about the origins of helicopter or drone parenting, and talked about how parents today come with so much more resources, but also much more fear. And it comes with wanting their children to have every opportunity. But as a result, they tend to take on doing things for their kids, and their kids lose that independence, they lose the ability to make a mistake, they lose the ability to navigate themselves in the world. Esther told us several times in the call there many paths to success. Her definition of success is being able to follow your dreams with enough resources to carry them on. And sounds like she's done an amazing job with both her students and her children around that. She said for the next generation to build resilience, they need to do something hard. She encouraged everyone to do sports or team sports where you learn to not only win, but also to lose at something. And she implored that parents have to stop rescuing their kids, they have to avoid being a snowplow parent, where the children never learns how to deal with the adversity of life because the way is always being cleared for them. She said in teaching in Palo Alto High School, she had a lot of helicopter parents in class. And she talked about how for many kids the biggest stress in their life are their parents, their parents aspirations and their parents inability and unwillingness to have them fail in any way. She then described her 10 grandchildren and talked about how the challenges facing this current generation are different and so much more challenging than that of her children or her generation. She said, children now have more options. But the biggest challenge is social media where kids are constantly comparing themselves to others. It promotes a kind of narcissism, according to Esther, thinking they're the center of the world or should be the center of the world. And she talked about how the number one influences on teenagers are often other teenagers, which really hasn't been true before. She said that she believed the metaverse web 3.0 NFT digital currency and nonstop gaming will make the situation even worse. She said I personally think this level of technology is not a good situation for teenagers, adults or anyone. She talked about how 83% of teenagers are stressed about education with many items on that list being new to this generation, a concern about gun violence, a concern about hostility that immigrants are concerned about climate change, a concern about rising sexual violence, a concern about rising suicide and divorce rates. Finally, she said that she believes civil education and civic should be required for every kid in the country. She said people learn by doing and civics as a natural complement to journalism. She said you can't be a theoretical journalist you have to learn by doing and she reminded us that by 2030 85% of the jobs will be jobs that we don't even know today. So as she pointed out, Esther said, You need to give kids an opportunity to think, to believe in themselves to feel empowered, and to make decisions to prepare for a world that we don't yet see. Thank you so much, Esther, for a whole lifetime of education and then educating us.