In February of this year, Culver-Newlin hosted our annual educational event featuring keynote speaker, Jamie Casap, Educational Evangelist at Google. Jamie has an inspiring personal story (and subsequent “education disrupts poverty” mantra) as well as a contagious enthusiasm about modern day education. While he was mainly speaking to the educators in the room, I was listening as the parent of a high school junior, and found some great takeaways, If you’re an educator, a parent, or otherwise, you might find some of his perspectives enlightening. I know I did.

First take away: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Can anyone reading this answer that? My father who just celebrated his 64th birthday could not answer that. Yet it is a question we have been asking our kids for years, assuming they have the capacity to answer. We aren’t acknowledging that outside of a few groups – firefighters, doctors, nurses, etc.- traditional categories of jobs don’t really exist anymore. New jobs are created DAILY. As a marketing director, I’ve had job responsibilities within the past year that didn’t even exist five years ago. Casap’s point was that we need to change the conversation: instead of asking “what do you want to be when you grow up?” we need to start asking kids “what problem do you want to solve?” I know my college-exploring daughter might feel a huge weight lifted by this simple shift in conversation.

Second take away: Building collaboration. From a young age, most all of your school work – tests, homework, projects – are done independently and the outcomes are yours to own and yours alone. Casap painted a picture of two children who were given a test in the classroom, one was good at English, the other at Math. They combined their skill sets and worked together for the best possible result on the exam. Together, they turn in the test to the teacher and are told they have cheated. When those same kids join the modern workforce, they will quickly learn that the role of the “individual contributor” has different meaning. Upon submitting a project to their CEO – they will be asked if they have gathered input from their peer group, conducted field surveys or cross checked the plan with finance, as most companies see the need for collaboration. Collaboration isn’t cheating. The question becomes, how do we build collaboration to prepare our kids today for the jobs they’ll accept tomorrow?

Third take away: Hope is abundant. Google’s Science Fair Winners from the past few years are nothing beneath remarkable. They are finding efficient ways to fight droughts, reduce carbon footprints, and change the way medical procedures are performed. Notably, Casap recognized Ann Makosinski, a 15 year old girl who created a flashlight that is solely powered by heat from a human hand. She had a friend who lived in the Philippines and loved to read, but this girl had no electricity. Makosinski, an avid reader herself, wanted to find a way for her friend to enjoy the same late-night reading indulgences she herself valued. These inventors, their peers that are artistically-inclined, the philanthropic-hearted kids…no matter the talents -they give us incredible hope for our future. Hope that no ugly political climate can affect. Hope that triumphs the negativity of the nay-sayers. Hope that creates excitement about the endless possibilities of technological advancements. We are surrounded by young world-changers, and that type of hope is intoxicating.

So let’s shift the conversation – what problem do YOU want to solve?