Unless you live in a cave — or a 20th century classroom — you know that one of the goals of Staples High School is to infuse critical thinking into everything students do.
Whether it’s analyzing environmental issues or connecting the health class curriculum with rising rates of obesity, principal John Dodig’s mission is to ensure that every graduate has the knowledge, confidence — and skills — to compete in the fast-changing, terrifying, challenging and exciting world they’ll soon inherit.
Actions, of course, speak louder than words.
Last week, Dodig spent 15 minutes of “Communication Time” to introduce a schoolwide goal.
Every student watched a sophisticated, inspiring TED.com video featuring Hans Rosling. The Swedish professor described his own youth in the 1960s, when there was an enormous gap between “the West and the rest.”
Since then, the world population has increased by 4.6 billion. Using simple boxes and props, Rosling showed the difference between then and now.
In 1960 the developed world wanted cars; the undeveloped world, clothes.
Today, China — the symbol of the newly developed world — has cars; the country owns Volvo, the ultimate Swedish symbol. Most of the world population, Rosling said, is now found in the middle, between the poorest and the wealthiest people.
Projecting to 2050, Rosling said that 4 billion people can leave poverty — provided the world avoids climate change, and energy remains cheap.
How could this happen? By raising the living standards of the world’s poorest people.
Rosling showed a fascinating graph. In it, child survival rates lead to greater wealth; this creates smaller families, which in turn leads to slower population growth — and ultimately, sustainability.
What does all this have to do with Staples?
As Dodig explained in a televised address, over the next 50 to 60 years, today’s students will form the foundation of the world. To build a firm foundation, they’ll need real-world skills.
The problems they’ll face may be ill-defined. But tomorrow’s leaders will need to:
- Know where to find information
- Know how to synthesize and evaluate that information
- Be able to collaborate across many disciplines.
“If all Staples students can master those skills,” Dodig said, “you will be successful.”
They’ll be able to handle the economic, environmental and other global challenges they face — and they’ll make the entire planet a better place.
Dodig then asked each classroom teacher to lead a discussion of the video. Among the questions:
- Why was the video shown?
- How did the video relate to Staples students, and what you learn in school?
- What part will you play in the future?
Dodig asked for feedback. Teachers told him the video sparked insightful discussions; students said it made them think, and posed questions of their own.
Much has changed since 1960, as Rosling pointed out. But a button from that decade remains true: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
Staples High School has challenged its students to make sure, 50 years from now, that the saying is a long-forgotten relic of a dim, dusty past.