Expert Q&A | Drew Dudley
Q: What key 21st-century skills or new literacies can better prepare youth for the future?
A: I think the key thing we need to do is cultivate a belief in our young people that they can be extraordinary based on what they're great at and love to do, not if they learn to do what "the market" values. In my experience, by the time they hit college or university, many young people don't feel they have anything that makes them extraordinary. Their time at school has convinced them that the things they may be great at aren't as important as the things that they've been marked on. The ability to identify, develop and share the exceptional things you can offer that add value to the lives of others – these are the things that we must focus on developing in ourselves, and in our future leaders.
"Literacies" don't change worlds. The problem is, when we break down our understanding of the world, and of ourselves, into smaller bundles with labels like "literacies" and "life skills," we embed further in our young people the idea that our world can be divided up into commodities that are differentially valued–and the accumulation of the most valuable is the entire purpose of our lives. The complex whole of an individual's skills, perspectives, experiences and hopes is far more than the sum of its parts. But we teach that the key to success and happiness is accumulating the parts, not developing the whole. The result, in my opinion, is that we lower our expectations for ourselves and for each other.
Q: What are the challenges in educating students about leadership?
A: The greatest challenge in educating students about leadership is the education system itself. This is a system that came into existence to create easily replaceable factory workers who knew how to follow orders but were educated enough not to screw up the production process. Unfortunately, it continues to produce those workers–though now most move to a cubicle instead of the factory–but with the added frustration of ensuring they drop tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege. Our education system is not built to produce leaders because true leaders focus on their ability to add value to their own lives and the lives of those around them. A system that ranks and grades entire groups of young people relative to each other, while indicating those at the top will receive greater rewards, tends not to foster a focus on adding value to others. Our education system produces extraordinary leaders despite itself. It gives me great hope to realize that there are individuals capable of resisting the urge to have their report card serve as a measure of their worth as a person.