Skip to content

Public education’s opportunity in this moment of rapid technological change

Today, we are once again at an inflection point.

In the 1830s, Horace Mann, a Massachusetts legislator and Secretary of the State's Board of Education, began advocating for the creation of public schools that would be universally available to all children, free of charge, and funded by the State. Mann and other proponents of common schools believed and emphasized that a public investment in education would benefit the entire nation, developing our children into literate, moral, and productive citizens.

Today, nearly 200 years later, I believe that America remains the greatest nation on earth – in large part due to our public schools and the teachers and staff who selflessly serve over 50.3 million children in our nation's classrooms.

Public education is the driving force and catalyst for the world's largest economy, the strongest military, the greatest innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity. Our well-being, safety, ingenuity, our freedom, and democracy, are born, advanced, and protected through our public schools.

In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, "Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education."

Our public schools are the bedrock of our nation, the cradle of knowledge, and the foundation upon which we build our future. It is here, within the walls of our classrooms, that we foster the skills, the dreams, and the aspirations that will propel our nation forward. And, it is here that we must acknowledge the immense responsibility and importance of the role of our teachers.

Today, public education stands at a crossroads. We, as a nation and as public educators, must decide – do we understand the significance of this moment in time in which we find ourselves? Do we grasp the magnitude of this unique, compelling, and yet mysterious crossroads that lie before us?

The pandemic, as challenging and tragic as it was, may in some ways have also served as a warning siren, similar to those that warn us about approaching danger or, in some cases, imminent threats to our present and future well-being. It provided an extremely important wake-up call as a nation. That perhaps, the comfort of the status quo will no longer equip us to successfully ride waves of change that no longer resemble a moderate crest, but rather are more representative of an unprecedented tsunami.

We stand at the dawn of an era defined by even more rapid technological advancements, such as the rise of artificial intelligence, groundbreaking biomedical discoveries, and a globalized world that has brought us closer to one another and more universally connected than ever before. As we traverse these uncharted waters, we must recognize the central role of education in preparing our young citizens for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Before the pandemic, the sirens of technological acceleration were blaring, while many in public education and our nation slept; somehow believing that these sweeping technological transformations were simply an illusion which could be ignored.

While I couldn’t be more proud of the teachers and staff in St. Vrain for the level of preparedness and commitment in serving our students and families during this time, many other school districts across our country were ill-equipped to manage the pandemic. So, this begs the million-dollar question: why in 2020, did our country blink when faced with the need for a tech-based pivot in order to provide our children with a sound education in response to the pandemic, and what are we doing now to be better prepared for the future?

Today, we are once again at an inflection point. Artificial Intelligence, cybersecurity, exponential growth, and other advancements are exploding in virtually every aspect and corner of our nation and world. We are entering what is being referred to as a Double Exponential Curve, a time when artificial intelligence will represent a new beginning that will launch us into the unknown at a pace never seen or even imagined before.

This time in which we find ourselves is not one for the passive, the faint of heart, or the keeper of the status quo. Today is a time that demands leadership, strength, curiosity, enthusiasm, teamwork, optimism, and courage. Today we must see challenges as opportunities to overcome, and uncertainties as opportunities to create an amazing future for our children, ourselves, and our nation as a whole.

After nearly four decades in public education, I am convinced beyond question that our nation's future is dependent on our public school teachers. They are the architects of the fires of curiosity and the passion for learning in our youth. We entrust them with the sacred task of molding the next generation of leaders, innovators, and pioneers who will steer the course of our society.

In this rapidly changing world, it is essential for our teachers to embrace the spirit of adaptability, to be agile in their approach, and be bold in their methods. They must continue to be our champions of change, guiding our students through the ambiguity of new technologies and scientific discoveries, and preparing them to emerge as leaders in a fiercely competitive global landscape. And, it is essential that we, as a nation, continue to invest in, support, and celebrate the vital role of the teaching profession. We must recognize the immense responsibility our educators carry and provide them with the resources, training, and encouragement they need to rise to this moment in time.

As we navigate this pivotal juncture in our nation's history, let us come together to embrace the power and potential of public education. Let us rally behind our teachers, our students, and our communities to ensure that we are prepared to meet the challenges of the future head-on. Let us remember that the foundation of our democracy, our prosperity, and our continued success as a nation rests upon the shoulders of our public schools – and it is our shared responsibility to support and strengthen them for generations to come.

With a sense of urgency and determination, let us heed this call to action and stand up for the future of our nation, ensuring that our public schools remain the beacon of hope, opportunity, and progress that has made America the greatest nation on earth. In doing so, we reaffirm our commitment to the core values that have guided us for nearly two centuries, that education is the great equalizer, the cornerstone of our democracy, and the key to unlocking the promise of a brighter future for all.