The First Intergenerational Salon: Education

Last night I had the opportunity to spend four hours with some of the most incredible people from authors to veterans to social activists to politicians to businessmen.  Our purpose: to bring together diverse individuals across generations, industries, and socioeconomic backgrounds to dig deep into the challenges and opportunities for education in the United States.

I am a self proclaimed novice in this area (particularly around policy changes). But, as a woman who grew up just outside Detroit, attended public school my whole life, and was an English teacher in a tiny fishing village in South Korea I feel deeply connected to the education conversation.  I guess the reality is that EVERYONE feels deeply connected to this conversation.

So what did I take away from our conversation last night?

Our country is scared to talk about poverty.  In fact, using the “P” word is considered political suicide.  As someone who works all over the world I found myself asking the question: Why can we use poverty about every other country in the world except our own.  And if we cannot talk about it then how can we truly address it?  It is time to call it out and more importantly recognize its direct link to education.

We have to find a way to hear the voices of those whom this education failure most affects.  Why do we only hear the voice of the politicians who send their kids to the best private schools or the wealthy business men who laud the charter school movement (don’t worry this is not to knock the charter school movement I am on board)?  My question is: Where are the voices of the teachers, the parents, and the kids who a deeply craving an opportunity to create their own future.  I don’t think they are silent.  I think they just need the platforms, the access to knowledge, and the connection to eachother to make their voices loud enough to be heard.  Is there a way that technology can increase access to information for this group and empower them to share their voices?

What inspired me about our conversation last night?

We are at a moment in time when change is not only possible, it is happening.

  • I learned about a community in Tampa where parents standing up and creating real change.
  • I learned about a young man who is training the disadvantaged high school youth in communities in DC to tudor elementary school youth, investing in human potential on multiple levels of the spectrum.
  • I learned about the value of working through institutions that have built real trust like churches, community groups, and families rather than trying to build new ones.
  • I learned that bringing together a diverse group of people is the first step to creating change.
  • I was reminded of how fortunate I am.

Most importantly I learned that we need to have these conversations to push our thinking, to nourish our souls, and as one of the members of the group said to me “I look forward to learning more about the world through your eyes”.

More to come…


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