My eldest son has finished reading Sun Tzu's The Art of War. I encouraged, strongly, that he read it this weekend in the wake of watching the film 2 Million Minutes. He has finished the book now, which we bought on Saturday, and had come to the conclusions he was supposed to, without too much coaching: "Know thy enemy as well as thyself."
That's not directly the message of 2 Million Minutes, but it's fairly close. The kids of the world are our own kids' competitors today and tomorrow. There is no other way of putting it. Or as Shirley Jackson from RPI puts it, the world is flat and everyone is on the same playing field.
The economist from Harvard talks about how our moms and dads had an advantage 40 and 50 years ago with Europe in disarray from WWII and the West in similar straights with the defeat of Japan. And then throw in the USSR with it's failed experiment, American kids had an advantage because their counterparts around the world were playing the game from a few levels behind.
That isn't the case these days. And we as parents need to realize that. Kids in other parts of the world are attending school longer each day and each year. They're studying more. They're catching up if not surpassing us and these are the same kids who one day will be filling out job applications here in America for the same jobs we want our children to have. And if the jobs aren't here in America, they are the jobs our American kids might be having to get somewhere else.
We had a rather unusual conversation with the kids on Friday night. Two hours of watching 2 Million Minutes and then discussing the film, its implications, and what we can do as parents, and the kids can do as our future, to get off the mark and get moving.
We asked the boys at one point how many of their friends' parents were sitting around on a Friday evening watching that film and then having a lengthy discussion about it. One of the boys, who claims to have a massive number of "35" close friends, guessed that at least 10 of his friends that night were having the same conversation with their parents. Right.
Nonetheless, I recommend this movie to other parents. If you can't watch the movie, the Web site is helpful as an alternative.
Sit down with your kids and talk to them about the future. Go ahead, it won't hurt. And they will love you for it, and they will remember the conversation better than you ever could imagine. Kari and I both talked the other night about how neither of our parents' had a similar conversation with us. Of course, there wasn't an Internet in those days. Heck, we didn't even have PCs in all rooms of the house like we seemingly do today.
And don't think this is a conversation you need to have with your kids for just once. It's not. It needs to be a developing, ever evolving conversation. Moms and Dads of America, hear ye, hear ye, please listen. The world is approaching by land and by sea and if you don't wake up your kids will wake up some day way, way, way behind the world they thought they were ahead of. That's not the light of a LBJ-phobiaed Communist Moon, but the way it's going to be if we don't make some important changes in how we educate our children here in America. And fast. Like now.