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Education in a Defined Benefits World

“Education is the number one issue where ever you go,” said Tom Friedman to Ted Mitchell in the #NSVFSummit opening.

“We left a ‘defined benefits’ world where workers retired with a pension, and we’ve moved into a ‘defined contributions’ world,” said Friedman, “where it’s your responsibility to open an account, make the money, and develop the competencies you need to learn and thrive.” (See Freidman’s NYT column yesterday.)

Author of That Used To Be Us, Friedman thinks “education is the top national security risk.” And he thinks, “The most dangerous thing a country or species can do is misread their environment.”

Friedman said we made a mistake in the decade after the Cold War, “We thought it allowed us to put our feet up, but it unleashed 2 billion people just like us.” He suggested we made another mistake in the second decade after the Cold War, “We chased the losers of the Cold War–the Taliban and Al Qaeda–and not the winner–China.

About the merger of globalization and the IT revolution, “Everyone is feeling it, but no one is actually explaining it to people. An example close to home for Friedman is that “In the 1970’s the New York Times had 7 competitors, now we have 7 million.”

Looking back to 2004 Friedman said “Facebook didn’t exist, 4G was a parking spot, Twitter was a sound, Big data was a rapper, Skype was a typo, and the cloud was in the sky.” In a few short years the online world has exploded.

In our hyper-connected world, “Average is officially over,” said Friedman. But that doesn’t just mean pressing harder, “We need parenting, teaching and political leadership that inspires.”

On the subject of learning how to learn, Friedman offered some (dated and expensive) advice, “Go around to all your friends and ask who is your favorite teacher and take that course.” He’s right about learning from great learners, “The first place you learn how to learn and learn to love how to learn is from a great teachers.” The good news is that it’s easier and cheaper to find and follow great teachers.

A few years ago, claims Friedman, “Education got out of sync with the business world.” Lots of graduates need “upskilling to be productive.” The skills mismatch, particularly in technical fields, increasingly means that applicants need degrees and a certificate to demonstrate knowledge skills. More and more often, “We all need to pass the bar.”

Channelling Tony Wagner, Friedman said, “The world doesn’t care what you know, Google knows it all. The world only cares what you can do.” Columnists look at the most emailed list of articles and “the most emailed list is coming to a job and school near you.”

In the near future, said Friedman, there will only be high imagination countries and low imagination countries. “Everyone needs to graduate from high school not college ready, but innovation ready,” said Friedman quoting Tony Wagner.

Friedman is a frustrated optimist about America. Like us, he’s frustrated with DC’s inability to help “launch us into the next orbit of economic growth.”  No need to wait for Congress, Friedman offered five pieces of advice that he shares with his children;

  1. Stay Hungry: Every day, think like an immigrant – a paranoid optimist

  2. Take Pride: Think like an artist – carve your initials into your work

  3. Always Be in Beta: Think like a startup operator

  4. PQ + CQ > IQ: Persistence, passion, and curiosity over IQ

  5. Be Entrepreneurial: Think like a waitress at Perkins Pancake restaurants, where can you add value?

Laysha Ward of Target, who wrote a great blog on Huff Post last week, opened the morning keynote sharing heartwarming college acceptance videos. Target has been giving $4 million to education causes every week and will hit one billion by 2015.

NewSchools kicked off the Summit on Tuesday night with awards. Eric Westendorf and Alix Guerrier, LearnZillionfounders won entrepreneur of the year and Unsung Heroes award went to Carrie Irvin and Simmons Lettre of Charter Board Partners.