Social Education 64(1), ©2000 National Council for the Social Studies. All rights reserved.

Roundtable

 

“We grapple today with ancient questions and still solutions elude us. Yet, I suspect we really do have some answers and need only the courage to reframe the old questions—and ask some new ones and be bold enough to face the truths we see. An example: Do we not see the planet as obviously populated with great diversity of many kinds? A heightened consciousness and acceptance of this as fact would help end prejudice and violence in the world. Add to that, learning to live without greed. Thus, we’d evolve as a species that cared about the whole.”

Dorothy F. Cotton, Convener of the National Citizenship School

 

“For those of us coming of age at the millennium, we carry with us the problems of the 20th century even as we travel into the 21st. Problems such as a weakened educational system, racism, poverty, the international abuse of children, and ethnic cleansing will cross the threshold with us. Our challenge will be to build strong communities in the United States that will prepare highly educated citizens/leaders capable of just and compassionate action at home and around the globe. Our guide into the millennium will be our ability to examine and understand our past, know how to relate it to our present, and apply the best of that knowledge to our future.”

Emily Buzicky, 11th grade student,
Highland Park High School, St. Paul,
Minnesota

 

“Societies need a unifying ideology to sustain themselves. For much of history, this unifying force has been conquest or defense. As we begin the new century, the United States finds itself in an ideological vacuum. We are eroding the ideology of our democratic experiment, and without the value and energy of this common and coherent social vision, our republic will not long endure. This may be our greatest challenge of the millennium.”

Raymond B. Carey, Jr., author of Democratic Capitalism and retired CEO of ADT Security Services, Inc.

 

“It is my fervent hope that early in this new millennium, the world’s leading thinkers will finally realize that Malthusian beliefs are absolutely wrong. Because they are adhered to by almost all of the leaders in almost every sphere of influence, they have become the major barrier to accelerating the quality of life worldwide. Resources do not exist, they become. They are inventions of human intellect. So the availability of resources like food and energy is a function of the level of literacy, of the education of the human population. The main cause of so-called overpopulation is undereducation.”

Allen Schmieder, Vice-President JDL Technologies and former Program Director, U.S. Department of Education

 

“It is folly to describe the new technologies as ‘just a set of new tools.’ The computer and the miraculous and growing technological wonders it has spawned is a ‘once in a century’ invention. Rather than being new instruments for a tool box that would help us do the same old things more efficiently, the new technologies have transformed the way we think about things, the way we see things, even the ‘way we do life.’ They have, almost overnight, created a global universe where the whole of human knowledge and the whole of humanity are almost instantly accessible to every one of us. It is, indeed, an amazing new world. How fortunate we are to live in these times.”

Peter Nelson, President, Hyperport Technologies and Concept Innovation

 

“Hello, my name is Marissa Stafford, and I am 11 years old. I am in the fifth grade at Jonathon Daniels School in Keene, New Hampshire. When I grow up I want to be a district attorney because I think there is so much crime in the world, and I want to see that every child has a home that they feel safe living in. I would like to see in the new millennium less children living on the streets and less children being abused and as many children as possible feeling safe and secure. I also would like to see fewer killings in schools. And I would like to see all children get a good education, not just wealthy ones. I think we need to wake up. There are children out there with a terrible education being abused and scared to go to school and living in poor homes. I believe we need to focus on children because they are the future.”

Marissa Stafford, 5th grade student, Jonathon Daniels School, Keene, New Hampshire

 

 

“Henry Luce called the past 100 years the ‘American Century,’ no doubt in large part due to the tremendous economic machine that this nation has developed. Nevertheless, many endure untold stress in the midst of great affluence, while others suffer from relative deprivation in a materialistic culture. When asked what was the most significant world event he covered in his lifetime, James Reston, the renowned journalist, remarked, ‘the transformation of America from Puritanism to hedonism.’ In just 30 years, the United States turned its back on a heritage that nurtured this jewel of a republic to embrace a ‘do your own thing’ philosophy of individualism. As a result, we all suffer—spiritually, intellectually, and psychologically—from this transformation. Most of our children struggle with either a distorted or no understanding of the ‘American Dream.’ Unless we revive our culture with a spirit of community and provide young people with hope, the next
century will not be kind to our nation.”

Jim B. Hayes, President & CEO,
Junior Achievement Inc.

Questions to Consider

As we think about the quotes around the “table,” it might be useful to consider the following questions.

 

1. “Childhood” was invented in the eighteenth century as a result of a great increase in information and because writers of the Enlightenment—such as Rousseau and Pestalozzi—developed new ideas about children and how they learn. What changes, if any, do you see in the concept of childhood and its potential impact on education in the new “age of information”?

 

2. As we discuss our nation’s role in the global marketplace and as a leader in the construction of “global culture,” how will the work of fundamental institutions such as families and school change? Should they change?

 

3. The first purpose of the public school in the United States is to enhance the republic, or as Ben Franklin put it, “to keep a republic.” What rationale for public schools do you think will serve us best as we enter the 21st century?

 

4. In a very important way, all education is about discovering or constructing identity. Why, in a time of such agreed upon change, do we place so much focus on both history and our future identity as a nation?

 

5. With regard to both the ideals and realities involved in issues such as human rights, emigration, economic well being, and peace, what public policies and personal decisions are implied in the roundtable quotes?