Academic journal article Middle School Journal

Preparing Young Adolescents for a Bright Future-Right Now!

Academic journal article Middle School Journal

Preparing Young Adolescents for a Bright Future-Right Now!

Article excerpt

This We Believe characteristics:

* Curriculum is challenging, exploratory, integrative, and relevant

* A shared vision developed by all stakeholders guides every decision

* Educators use multiple learning and teaching approaches

Eleanor Roosevelt said, "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams" (Notable Quotes, 2012). John M. Richardson, Jr. wrote, "When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened" (, 2012). These thinkers make it clear that our duty as middle level educators is to prepare young adolescents for a bright future, starting right now. We must examine all of our professional practices in terms of their current and future relevance, or else we fall into Richardson's first or third categories. The curriculum we co-create with our students must prepare them to address enormously complex issues involving demographics and international relations, environmental and human health, and the development and application of technolog)'.

As with all areas of futurism, there is good news and bad regarding demographics. Many scientists see the world's population growing more slowly, and topping off at nine to ten billion people, compared with our current seven-plus billion (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). However, this is only marginally good news, because we no longer produce enough food to supply every person on the planet, even if it were distributed equitably (Club of Rome, 2012).

The health of our natural environment drives all else on the planet, including the health of its inhabitants. Perhaps the greatest immediate challenge involves global climate change, specifically a rise in the earth's mean temperature due to human activity-primarily the burning of fossil fuels. Climate change is causing the melting of the polar ice sheets, resulting in sea level rise, thus threatening the fresh water supplies and coastal homes of much of the earth's population (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2014; Union of Concerned Social Scientists, 2009). Far "greener" alternatives to fossil fuels are already being used extensively and could be greatly expanded, including solar, geothermal, tidal power, and wind.

The challenges noted, as well as many others, cause great tension and leave populations susceptible to political and religious extremism rather than the cooperation our survival depends on. Thus, solutions, and education, must address both social and technological realms in order to have any lasting impact. These arenas intersect with great promise in personal communication trends. Social scientists say we now live in a "flat world," since relationships between individuals have been "flattened" via the nearly universal personal communication technologies (Gore, 2013). Individuals in Sri Lanka, South Dakota, and Sweden can share ideas across a flat plane, or person to person. They are liberated from the vertical silos of their village or nation, and from the claims of their chief, president, media, and so on. This might lead an individual to say, "Those people over there are all right. They're not our enemies. And how come they have free elections and we don't? And jobs? And indoor plumbing?"

The "Arab Spring" and the U.S. "Occupy" movements were essentially flat world phenomena, driven by persons with access to social media (Adam, 2011). However, the very' rough paths of these movements caution that technology is no panacea. As James Canton (2006, p. 55) wrote in The Extreme Future, "Democracy drives innovation. Innovation drives prosperity. Prosperity enables productive, open societies and is the enemy of terror and war." Another positive aspect of the flat world is that entrepreneurs and workers can collaborate and market their wares worldwide, with Naisbitt (2009) forecasting one billion internet entrepreneurs by 2015, and Canton (2006) saying that they will account for one-third of the world's gross domestic product by the time you read these words in the fall of 2015. …

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