Friday, December 22, 2006

Securing the future: An Educational Race Involving Technology

The launching of Sputnik in 1957 created an educational race between the Soviet Union and the United States. Historians refer to the educational race as the Cold War. The race between the superpowers was an educational competition of sorts. It shows how competition between two superpowers affected domestic reforms, not only in the Soviet Union and the United States, but also in every corner of the globe. Ultimately, when the competition was over in the late 80’s, the Soviet Union had not only lost the educational race, but also their beloved union. What does this have to do with education?

Most Americans view the end of the Cold War as a triumph for America and the world, however victory is sometimes bitter sweet. With the demise of the Soviet Union, came the demise of educational competition to an extent, not only in the United States, but also at a global level. Consequently, the quality of educational services within the United States and the world has declined until recently.

Currently two things are actually causing policy makers, business leaders, and educators to wake up and realize the need for an educational race. The two entities are technology and terrorism. Ironically, technology and terrorism may actually stop the educational decline and get the world back into educational competition. How so?

In the United States, due to the constant treat of terrorism, there is again talk of teaching critical languages (Arabic, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Persian-Farsi, and Russian) in the United States. The National Security Language Initiative proposes to produce advanced speakers of these languages by 2009. NSLI plans to further strengthen national security and prosperity in the 21st century through education, especially in developing foreign language skills.

As a foreign language teacher, I believe that NSLI is a step in the right direction, but we can do more. We must do more. I believe that teachers and the government have to rethink the way we are approaching instruction. We can only produce prosperity in the 21st century through education if we develop an understanding of the global economy, of its cultural, social, political and gendered impacts, of the revolution in communication and informational technologies.

In closing, educators have to embrace and allow their students the opportunity to embrace emergent technologies (Web 2.0) at the K12 level in all disciplines. Not for the sake of integrating technology, but to prepare students for the 21st century. As such, governments must find ways to adequately fund technology within their schools. With educators and the government working toward this goal, students of the world will prosper in the 21st century. However, if any group fails to participate adequately in the race, then the race will be lost and prosperity will most likly be lost as well.

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