Preparing Students for a Flat World

I had the pleasure of meeting Thomas Friedman at my previous school in Bali, Indonesia. His book, The World Is Flat, had recently been published, and he was interested in learning about international educational models that could address some of the issues he had identified through his research. More than a decade later, our conversation has continued to influence the way I think about global education and the challenges facing educators today. As Friedman questioned at the time, how can schools best prepare students for a “flat world“ and effectively develop the skills they will need to be successful in the twenty-first century?

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The answer to this question will, no doubt, continue to evolve as the needs of our students become more defined. But since speaking with Friedman and reading his more recent publications, I’ve come to believe that this generation of students will require greater empathetic and critical-thinking skills to be citizens of a world that is increasingly networked and multicultural. This includes cultivating a steadfast openness for a variety of ways to understand the world and a curious disposition that will foster learning about and engaging with others. And more than ever, students will need to understand the importance of ethical interactions with a diverse range of cultures and people who have very different values than one’s own.

This is no small task, particularly in these times of tightening borders, trade wars, and heightened political rhetoric. But as Friedman has modeled as a "compassionate flatist,” it is one of the most important goals we can set for our students.

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