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In a recent article in Cardus Comment Magazine titled, “Where Does the World Need Me?” folk from all walks of life gave their answer to that very question. Everyone from teachers, farmers, artists, entrepreneurs, community activists, and doctors gave their response. Since I thought my response would take up too much room in Cardus’s comments section, here it is!

First, let me define what I mean by the word “world”. To me, the “world” consists of those individuals and communities who ache not for more corporate managers, stock options, movers and shakers, high-rise office suites, ROIs, P/E ratios, or bottom-line agendas, but for more prophets and poets, more artists and dreamers, more storytellers and lovers. The “world” as I use it consists of the forgotten, the abandoned, the abused, the disenfranchised, the lonely, the orphan, the outcast, the mourners, the impoverished, the vulnerable.

As David Orr said (in one of my favorite and oft-used quotes), The plain fact is that the planet does not need more “successful” people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every shape and form. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these needs have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.”

This, then, is what I think the “world” needs from me: The world needs me to work for the redemption of education. By this I do not mean “school reform” (as those who have been long-time readers of this blog should know by now), but true “redemption” in the overarching narrative of education. That is, it needs me to spend my life on behalf of redeeming the narrative that says that education is about economic utility and not human flourishing; that it is about the demands of the marketplace and not the deep social, relational, and emotional needs of our communities (both poor and rich); that it is about a “one-size-fits-all” model that can be scaled down to answer “D” on a scantron test; that the purpose of education is somehow about finding happiness in making money and buying stuff (a myth robbed blind every time Black Friday rolls around); that being smart is the same thing as being wise; that doing good things is the same thing as pursuing the Good. This, then, is what the world needs me to articulate.

The world needs me to remind those who toil in the trenches of education that what they do matters far beyond Princeton-produced worksheets; that children are never just the sum of their parts; that schooling must be about fostering wisdom, virtue and compassion or it fails everyone even (and especially) when it succeeds in its “College and Career Ready” mantra; that children walk through the door with immense baggage (most of it heaped upon them by the adults in their lives), and we offer a bold-faced lie when we say that “Algebra” is the most important thing they should focus on.

The world needs me to be that lone voice crying in the wilderness of education bugaboo that adult-driven agendas make for terrible kid-centered pedagogy. The world needs me pursuing my doctoral degree so that, when I have an audience, the credibility makes up for the locust-driven words I have to say.

The world needs me broken, bruised, and bloody from fighting against the “god” of Mammon, upon whose altar we all-too-willingly offer our most vulnerable members. The world needs me reading in the fields of theology, philosophy, culture, education and literature so that, through all that, I can somehow make sense and sensible what our world really needs.

In short, the world needs me loving my city through the prism of a re-imagined vision for schooling in order to start a larger conversation on what education can and should be!

***I would love to hear your responses on how you would answer the question “Where Does the World Need Me?”

You can access the Cardus Comment article here