Friday, January 21, 2011

USA - Land of innovation and talent!

I heard on National Public Radio yesterday that the U.S.A. exceeds the world in the patents we submit for new inventions.

Our Chinese neighbors are here visiting and looking for how we develop talent and innovation! How do Americans keep thinking "out of the box?" How do we develop the sort of critical thinking, in a democracy, that creates a healthy distrust for monolithic forms of thought?

It's good stuff and it leads people to create inventions which grow commerce and wealth. It's our national product - what we are known for world wide. We aren't known for lock-step thinking or stepping in line - we are appreciated for our fierce independence, our sincere optimism and can-do attitude.

We don't have a melting pot or a salad, we have a garden! It is young and alive with rebellious sprouts. We believe in the fact that with the right soil, air and water, we can keep growing a nation. What we have is wonderful raw material and the tendency to keep growing and nurturing the democratic roots that sustain us.

Even our fractious debate between our political parties is dynamic. We keep swinging that pendulum from right to left and back again. All part of growing.

We Americans love our individualism and our right to keep it, but we want to be judged by the same measures that test people who are vastly different in their core values and stategies.

In public schools, we educate all of our children and we take their test scores and share them with the world. Then, we're compared with other nations who carefully sift out their bad test takers early in life and route them to technical or vocational work.

It's important to own who we are and stand up proud and shout it. Far from being the "ugly American" who arrogantly struts into the world and declares what the world should do, I say that we accept who we are and get more comfortable in our own skin.

Of course, we have hard work to do. The achievement gap must be eliminated. We need to prepare our students for the century we live in, not the one we left behind. We need to reinvent our schools to adapt to a new age with new needs.

But this is happy work. It's work that teachers, students and parents can roll up our sleeves to do. It's our educational barn raising. We put up our beams and we lift them up into a structure which shelters our children, fosters their creativity and innovation and invites the community in to share.

It's quintessentially American work and the way we do it can and should be informed by the educational models we see in the world, but this effort must uniquely suit our people and our needs. No apologies required.

Let's be proud of what we've made in our fine public schools across this nation. Like Lady Liberty says, "give me your tired, weary, yearning to breath free."

Our schools fling open their doors to all who enter here. They are free, public places which form a rock of scholarship and a window of opportunity for all who enter. For generations, they have held the dreams of immigrants and have given the keys to the city to all who open the books treasured herein.

We create a unique recipe which combines dreams for a new tomorrow, uncertainty, a spirit of independence and a belief in the power of hard work. This is American education. It produces a world-wide treasure and I am proud to be a part of it.

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