Education for Adaptability Post Virginia Tech

Updated 26 April, Original 21 March, 2007

 In the wake of the Virginia Tech incident, must spend time thinking about the broader environment of their work place.

Some time ago, I was struck by author Alvin Toffler’s quote that the illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read nor write, but rather those who will not learn, unlearn, relearn.  My own work since 1999 and follow-on reading and research have led me to the question I proposed in announcing the website: What if nothing leaders have ever been taught or experienced is sufficient to the problems of this new century?

(Results and application of scientific progress in information technology, impact of globalization, Mother Nature’s defense of her turf in response to man’s progression, and actions of the non-state fighters of fourth generation warfare)

The website focus is on the world of disaster response, whether to terrorism or Mother, with thoughts that we need to better educate our leaders AND our community to the seemingly unique demands of a new century if we are to survive, but consider further:  It is no longer true that the United States has the best educated workforce in the world. Yet, survival on our own terms in this century requires the most creative of thinkers. Where will they be?  Recently, the National Center on Education and the Economy released “Tough Choices or Tough Times” (Executive Summary attached) which proposes a radical overhaul of the U.S. education system, with one goal in mind – produce workers who can think creatively.

The center’s head, Marc Tucker, stated “One thing we know about creativity is that it typically occurs when people who have mastered two or more quite different fields use the framework in one to think about the other…That means revamping an education system designed in the 1900s for people to do routine work, and refocusing it on producing people who can imagine things that have never been available before, who can create ingenious marketing and sales campaigns, write books, build furniture, make movies and design software that will capture people’s imaginations and become indispensable for millions.”

A major theme for crisis and disaster response decision making must be adaptability and creativity as central to understanding and surviving in chaotic environments. Education, training, and learning are necessary tools. How do we get there from here?

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