Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lost Children

We lose a lot of kids. 

And I mean A LOT of kids. Try well north of a half million kids a year in the USA. 

They simply drop out of public schools. (607,789 kids. (in 2008-9) according to the U.S. Dept. of Education)   That number boggles my mind. That is roughly the population of Vermont.

Let's imagine what the prospects of those "lost children" might be out there in the world 
with no degree, few skills, and the label of "a failure"? 

And let's venture a guess on who ends up helping shoulder their burden?

That's right: You and I.
Our communities have to dig deep to pay for the consequences of these "lost kids."

It's a shame that these kids, who leave school, do so without the skills to help us make things better.  If they could read, write, problem solve - and feel empowered -imagine tapping them on the shoulder to help architect schools that were boredom-proof? 

Ironic, no?

By the way, I'm a creative thinker, so I don't think all of these "lost kids" are doomed.
Many do actually fight their way through and make a future for themselves.
Some of these "left fielders" actually do some amazing things left to their own devices.

Speaking of devices, technology is a pretty nifty "game changer." Kids don't need to be reminded to use their mobile devices. Keyboards are irresistable to even infants. Kids expect all screens to be touch screens. Tell kids to build a robot and they light up. Ask them to make a movie or an animated film and they'll work through the night. We've just begun to see the tip of the iceberg on how these tools will revolutionize learning.

Pretty obvious to me that with new tools - cross-pollinated with new thinking about what school is, what it can be, what it should be... and then we've got a shot at plugging back in one third of our country's future.
Engaged, creative, productive, innovative. 

Hey, isn't that the spirit that a participatory democracy thrives on?

Thinking for ourselves. 

Making own choices. 

Yet remembering that we're all in this together -- that our neighbors matter.

That's why my brother, Paul and I want to help press fast forward by launching a not-for-profit center dedicated to teaching, learning and creativity. We're interested in "out of the box" ideas that improve things- not just by a few percentage points - but by leaps and bounds. Applying  slightly improved "same old same old" approaches won't move the meter for those hundreds of thousands of kids who are falling off the grid each year. 

Those kids are our neighbors and our neighbors matter to us. 
We can't stand by and watch them suffer and miss the dream.

We count our lucky stars that we can make a difference.
That is what drives us. We get energized when we see kids light up. 
Teachers get recharged. Families get plugged in. Communities get energized.
We can't do this alone though... we need you. It's a complex challenge, but we love a good challenge. Many of the solutions to these challenges are ones that we already know work- but need room to breathe -and need to be protected and championed: conversation, listening, freedom, human connections- especially from caring mentors. Nothing beats an inspired teacher whose enthusiasm and energy inspires the same from those around them.