In an era of unprecedented volatility, ambiguity, impassioned conflict, and intractable problems that affect the basic living conditions and prosperity of many, education has never been more important or more in need of purpose, meaning, and applicability. The solutions to the dilemmas that define our world will be created and implemented in the future by students in schools around the world today. And so it goes, the future of the world is in their hands. Their education is their preparation for that responsibility. What skills, habits, mindsets, experiences, and knowledge do students need to lead the world, solving its crises and creating the possibility of peace and prosperity for all? How can students best master the types of problem-solving, leadership, understanding, and cooperation that they will need to succeed? Are we preparing our students to do the work of peace, be it the development of sustainable communities or the work of building their own internal resources of happiness and fulfillment?
Experience is the best teacher. Yet, too often in school we seek to preload students with all the knowledge that they might ever need, filling them full with no practice field for exploring the application and interesting combinations of sequencing and leveraging that knowledge. We fall short in creating opportunities for students to apprentice themselves to the real world. If we want our students to care deeply and act wisely in their lives, we must give them practice in doing so. My World Peace Game offers a learning space that is dynamic, exciting, meaningful, challenging for students to prepare to understand and generate solutions for the world’s dilemmas.
The World Peace Game is a successful teacher because students willingly fall into the fiction. The game is invigorating and fun, capturing the hearts and minds of students. It creates an open space for the application of knowledge and skills, for the combination of disciplinary knowledge and expertise that varies from player to player, and for real experience and opportunities to become better at teaming and collaborating, communicating and negotiating, winning through cooperation, and learning what real time feedback in the form of a stalled or failed effort looks like and feels like. Students work hard, not for a grade, but to save the world. They learn through playing roles, intensely and intently, solving complicated world problems. The truth we must hold dear and clear is that this fiction will be reality for them soon enough.
If it is to happen, world peace will be achieved with the next generation. That seems clear. They must bring to the task more actionable wisdom and mastery in cooperating over resources and collaborating through dilemmas and problems. They will need well-honed skills of critical thinking and problem solving. Their interpersonal skills must encompass resilience, diplomacy, and great compassion and empathy for people and the quality of their lives. They will need respect born through understanding people from different circumstances, religious beliefs, and traditions with different skin colors, languages, and cultural behaviors. And, most importantly, I believe, they will need a sense of ownership and a confidence to contribute.
What can we do, what must we do now to create learning that prepares students for this challenge? How can we solve for X?
John Hunter will deliver the opening general keynote address, titled “Solving for X: Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Essentials,” at 5:30 pm CDT, Wednesday, 20 March, at the TESOL 2013 International Convention & English Language Expo in Dallas, Texas.