March 04, 2016

Students studying

Students attending a workshop. Credit: Novartis AG / Flickr Creative Commons

Recently, we did a story on how technology could be introduced to classrooms. Programs that keep track of where students might have gaps in knowledge; online tools that cater teaching styles to how certain kids learn. These are the ideas that might usher in the next wave of education. But we neglected to include a major idea:

Technology is not only changing the way we learn in school, but what we learn in school.

Ian Bremmer, President of the Eurasia Group, believes that it’s time to start learning cultures, not languages.

Our ability to communicate across languages is getting better and better. “It’s basically simultaneous,” says Bremmer. “You’re carrying on a seamless conversation with someone from another country… the barrier is much more cultural than linguistic, and that barrier is going to persist…. There’s no computer that’s going to help you understand a culture.”

A student’s success is going to depend more and more on her ability to operate in a globalized workforce. And that ability will depend on how well she connects with different ways of thinking.

“What you really want is the ability for your relationships to be fruitful with as many disparate people as possible,” Bremmer explains.

But the responsibility doesn’t rest solely with brick-and-mortar education. Bremmer believes that it’s - first and foremost - up to parents to start exposing their kids to as many different cultures as possible.

“We live in the kind of country where you don’t actually have to travel the world to learn a different culture…. just get the kids out of the house.”

And though it doesn’t mean that we need to get rid of French classes and start learning about fromage (please?), it does mean we should start thinking about what role we want American students to play in a rapidly globalizing world.

Ian Bremmer, Culture, future learning

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