Smart and successful
By Superintendent Art Rainwater
For children growing up today, becoming a successful adult requires much more than mastering reading, writing and arithmetic. The requirements for success are very different in an era when work on a single project may involve several countries, languages and cultures. Success requires much more than “book learning.” Success means having the “basic skills” to interact productively and have positive relationships with people who come from many different backgrounds.
The ability of today’s students to play a vital role in this changing world requires us to think differently about what constitutes a “basic” education. For many years we lived by the credo that students must primarily have the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic. No one disputes the essential nature of these skills. There are people who still believe that these are the only essential skills needed for success. In a world that brings together a truly diverse group of people every day in the workplace and society, being successful means much more than the advanced application of reading, writing and arithmetic.
To have all the skills needed for success, we must understand that each of us is different and that being different is not only okay, but valued, important and interesting. Success requires understanding that interacting with other cultures enriches every one and that communicating in any language is a beautiful human gift. Potential success is enhanced by learning in a diverse environment which provides continuing opportunities for children to create a broad and inclusive view of the world.
School is all about creating that successful adult. Sometimes that very simple mission gets lost in the political rhetoric and ideological debates that have come to characterize the discussions around our education system. For children to be successful we have to move back to the simple premise that our fundamental role is to prepare children for their life as adults.
Being successful means having the ability to hold a family supporting and fulfilling career. It means gaining the knowledge and understanding about our society and government to be an active citizen. It means living in and helping to create a society which provides for the next generation to achieve.
The students of the Madison Metropolitan School District have the best learning environment because of the richness of our diverse learning community. We provide a world class education in preparing for success. Our students work and play everyday with children who are different in many ways. They learn about different families and different beliefs. They experience and work with children with a wide range of abilities. They can hear over 60 different languages and learn that truth can be expressed in every one of them. They learn that the way someone looks and talks does not define his or her character or value.
Our diversity is a gift to be valued and used. Our diversity is not a barrier to be overcome, but a great opportunity to help make all of our children successful world citizens.