American teachers and principals lead the world in the access they have to resources. While there are clear disparities between schools in high and low income communities, physical plant, computer technology, educational materials, science laboratories and other educational equipment are generally of high quality and in widespread use. But while more is spent on schools and students annually than in any other country in the world, the United States is as low as twenty fifth when compared with other nations on various measures of achievement.
The problem extends way beyond test scores. The typical American teacher is a white, monolingual female with little or no knowledge of the world. App. 80 per cent of American teachers teach within fifty miles of where they were born and raised. While this parochialism goes unnoticed in relatively homogenous small towns and suburbs, it is an obvious problem in urban areas where students may come from homes where more than 100 foreign cultures and languages are represented.
National parochialism is also a problem among students. 54 million students spend thirteen years in schools and emerge with clear deficiencies for living in the world. Almost none can use a language other than English unless they learned that language at home. Few have any geographic skills and cannot identify the significant topography of North America let alone the rest of the world. They do not know nor understand that most of the world are not Christians. Worst of all they have little knowledge of what they are ignorant about nor concerned with how to overcome their deficiencies. Unfortunately, the problem is the same among their teachers and principals.
The conference might focus on what educators in the rest of the world might suggest to prepare the United States for the world of 2025. While it is true that many other societies suffer from a parochialism that is even more severe than our own, the conference is liable to have greatest impact if those outside are put in the position of advisors. In this way the American participants will be in a less dominant role. There is also the greatest likelihood that the focus on our deficiencies will be a less threatening and result in getting participants to reflect on the shortcomings of their own schools as well.
Panel 1. What will the world look like in 2025?
What will be significantly different politically, economically, socially, health-wise, demographically and environmentally? This panel will lay the foundation for the conference by outlining the nature of the world that schools and students will have to live in.
Panel 2. What will schools need to teach to prepare people to live in the world of 2025?
Based on the input from Panel 1. what are the new realms of knowledge which must be covered which are not now taught? What will be different about the nature of the students in 2025?
Panel 3. What will teacher educators need to know to prepare students for the world of 2025?
About cultures, languages, political structures, demography, the environment etc.
Panel 4. What will the status of educational equity and justice for the poor in 2025?
Will the gap between income levels be the same? wider? What are
the implications of the education/income gap for the educational health of societies in 2025?
Panel 5. What does it all mean: synthesis and implications for action
Three individuals will present their synthesis of the major ideas presented at the conference and offer examples of next steps. These next steps will focus on changes in school curricula, changes in the selection and preparation of teachers and principals, changes in how schools are funded and assessed.