The most valuable asset for the future of the United States is its children. There are kids of different races, different genders, there are poor kids, there are disabled kids, there are rich kids; all who have access to the public school system. In kindergarten, they arrive at school excited to learn. Each and every year, new students walk through the doors of our public schools. The doors have opened each school day for every student desiring an education. How much longer will these doors open in this country?

The public schools have been a foundation of our society in America since 1635. The noble desire to give all students a free education is a lofty one. It is not free of problems and imperfections, but it has survived. Today is not the time to end this mission. Today is the time to recharge and reinvent public schools. There are approximately 51 million children in public elementary schools counting on public schools for their education. We have always felt public schools would stand, but today privatization is threatening to dismantle this US gift to our students and our future. How do we save our public schools?

We first must rethink what public education looks like. We are moving into a new age, where what once worked is no longer doing so. Today we must merge the use of the mind with the use of the hands. We must merge the thinking of the humanities with the innovation of technology. Students must think creatively and analytically. We can no longer house students in classrooms for eight hours a day. It is time to transform our learning platform.

I see Villages. In fact, visit a deserted mall. Claim it. Turn empty stores into educational labs, internship spaces via top companies globally or locally, add government and commerce, then include opportunities to beautify or enhance the Village by students. Students learn life skills while experiencing career opportunities. Classroom material will tie to life in the Village.

It is time to leave four walls and let the world be the classroom. Purpose is an amazing fuel for success. School today is a factory. Our students deserve the opportunity to find purpose in life and work. Engagement, rather than hours behind a desk, will nurture passion.

Community involvement through mentoring and internships within the Village will open doors for students. Allowing students to try new career options and the opportunity to speak to experts, will give students an inside look at work today and in the future. Today we keep students organized by age, and the method of “listening to learn” prevails. Engagement with people will build much needed social skills, and “doing” builds confidence.

A Village builds ownership. Ownership develops the grit and perseverance to tackle life. We can no longer raise anxious and unsure students. Excellence emerges when students feel ownership of their futures, instead of being herded from class to class with the sound of a bell.

Public schools can emerge as leaders in the remaking of our country. Civic engagement in The Villages and in the communities they serve will instill pride. Every day, students need one person, one accomplishment, one good deed…to feel empowerment. Confidence builds successful lives. Confident students create a better society. A better society changes the country.

So take a stroll into the future…the future of education. Villages that are set up to rehearse for life and work. To learn, to build, to plant, to grow, to create a better way to educate our children. Give students a safe place to fail and a safe place to grow. A place to see the possibilities of life. Give students opportunities that they will store in their minds and never forget. We can create this…one Village at a time, in rural towns and urban areas. Students will see the future…it waits for them.

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