Preparing Children for Tomorrow's World - November 2019

In the fall of 2000, I drove north on I-95 from Richmond to D.C. to start my first teaching job. As I began my ‘adulting’, I walked through all the details of getting my life set up: rent, utilities, change of address. One unexpected hurdle was my inability to get a telephone service at my new apartment. In August of 2000, employees at the telephone provider were striking, and my service was unavailable for two months. In today’s world of cell phone ubiquity, this would be no big deal; but, it was 2000, and the world was very different. For the next several weeks, I walked down to the payphone on the corner to call my parents and touch base with my friends (I can’t remember the last time I saw a payphone!). My, how times have changed. Two years later I bought my first cell phone, and I now I walk around—as we all do—with a computer in my pocket and the world at my fingertips. 

That moment in 2000 feels like the blink of an eye, and I wonder what will the next 20 years hold. From a school perspective, we are in a strategic planning season and as a community, we are dreaming about the future. What will Nashville require of us in 10 to 20 years, and what do we need to do now for that reality? In the midst of this planning, I attended a conference recently in which the speaker, a Vanderbilt professor, shared that by 2023 a computer will have the cognitive abilities of the human mind. Whoa! In the span of 25 years, I will have gone from using a payphone to relying on my cell phone to accessing artificial intelligence that will have the discernment and flexibility of the human mind. That’s the stuff of science fiction. 

As schools all over the world wrestle with this coming reality, there can be a variety of reactions. Some schools—either intentionally or out of avoidance—will double down on the past: the learning systems and the tried-and-true methods. Other schools—in a panic—will scrap everything and turn their programs upside down. From Oak Hill’s perspective, I think that there is a third way. We must remember that children have not changed. They are the same yesterday and today. However, the world around them has certainly changed. From my perspective, schools must balance these two realities: (1) being rooted in the essential needs of educating children for the world and (2) wrestling with the reality of a very different world on the horizon. 

What remains essential are the habits and patterns that form the hearts and souls of our young people. Seeds of faith and character are planted and grown through our intentional Christian community, authentic relationships, and grounding traditions. From flag raising, chapel, virtue speeches, and the daily love and care of their teachers and peers, I’m reminded that the core of education has, and always should be, moral and spiritual. These practices develop and anchor a child into who he or she is as a child of God created for meaning and purpose in our world. 

For the future, Oak Hill is focused on a learning environment that roots children in a nurturing community, treats each child as an individual learner, and looks for ways in which to stretch the boundaries of traditional structures within our school. Our children need to see the connections with subject areas, develop strong analytical and critical skills—all fostered at a school in which they are asked not only what they know, but how they know, and how can that knowledge be applied. The future ahead could be overwhelming, but I have hope in our children and the promise found in scripture.

At the risk of creating more anxiety and worry than a typical note from me, I’m reminded of the passage in Matthew 6 in which Jesus assures the disciples that God’s care for us exceeds his care for the birds of the air, which lack even food and shelter. Surely, Jesus’ declaration is a good one for all of us: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Amen, to that.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving.

With gratitude,

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