A student from Wakefield's Nazareth Academy in April. The following is the speech she made to the students and legislators on 21st Century learning.
Lieutenant Governor and fellow Constitutional Officers, Madame President, Madame Speaker and Members of the Senate and of the House, Members of the Judiciary, and other distinguished guests;
Being the proverbial “number one” can sometimes be quite a difficult position to maintain. Once considered “the first” or “the best,” the hopes of who you are and who you will become are elevated significantly. Be it in school, on a sports team, or even in your own family, the moment that you exceed people’s expectations, those people can rightfully anticipate that you will continue that trend in the future. This occurs not only on a personal level, but also on a global scale. For years, the United States has been considered the “best” country in the world: the strongest, the safest, the most modern and advanced. Could you imagine what would happen if this image changed? What would happen if this super power wasn’t so super anymore? I am sure that the majority of our country and even some other countries as well, would not regard the people of the United States highly when such a thing happened. Hence, it is our generation’s duty to make sure that this does not happen. By receiving a well-rounded education, incorporated with 21st century skills, we can secure not only a solid foundation of skills needed for one’s home and work life, but also an ever-so essential and principal position in the world.
It is certainly evident that our world as a whole has become more advanced each year. Today, careers and many part-time jobs require more skills than those 40 years ago required. Instead of producing material goods and machinery such as automobiles, which in 1967 accounted for 54% of the country’s economic output, we were, by 1997, generating more complex and intricate goods such as computers and software, accounting for an astonishing 63% of the country’s economic output. This statistic insists that employers are eager to hire those individuals who possess highly advanced technological skills and abilities.
As our country rapidly becomes more technologically advanced, the jobs that allow this progression to occur are simultaneously excelled, as well. In turn, it is imperative that the average American worker’s skills develop and evolve to keep pace with this surging advancement. One who has 21st century skills has the ability to quickly and skillfully respond to complex issues, communicate effectively, manage information, work collaboratively and produce new knowledge and creative innovations. It is vital to incorporate such skills with a general education for students around the country. By having these now necessary skills, and the ability to use them effectively, we Americans can prove to the world that our intellect and commitment to remain worldwide leaders is by no means some random “fluke.”
Such skills should begin to be introduced to students, on a national level, as soon as possible. Also, it seems that when it comes to this generation, we American’s aren’t as untouchable or awesome as we see ourselves. For example, a popular USA Today article on education states, and I quote, “Scores from the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment showed that 15-year-old students in America had an average performance rate in reading and science, but a below average rate in math. Out of the 34 countries which partook in this assessment, the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.”
We Americans need twenty-first century skills that will improve our education, and, in turn, increase our employability. When it comes time for our generation to work, and we don’t possess the skills necessary to do our jobs, what will happen? Well, either our country will lose its credibility as a “so-called” superpower and recognized worldwide leader and innovator, or we will have to find other, more prepared workers to take our jobs. This would of course, would put our economy and the well-being of all Americans in danger. By introducing skills of creativity, innovation, communication, critical thinking, and problem solving to students today, we can begin to prepare students of our now superior country to be the skillful, desirable workers we need not only to sustain, but also to flourish beautifully.
Thank you all so much for your time and attention, and congratulations on your achievements thus far!