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Diplomacy in Action

2011 UNESCO Youth Forum Finalist -- Dale J. Stephens

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Bureau of International Organization Affairs
Washington, DC
June 27, 2011



Dale J. Stephens

"What is the greatest global challenge facing youth, and how can American youth help to address it?"

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.“ --- Albert Einstein

Getting a quality education is the greatest challenge facing youth worldwide. Whereas most espouse the necessity of getting more students into the classroom, I think we need to help get youth out of the classroom. Youth are having their creativity, innovation, and natural curiosity systematically schooled out of them. Formal school, including college, teaches youth conformity rather than innovation, competition rather than collaboration, and theory rather than application. The grading system shifts the emphasis to performance and regurgitation rather than learning. It teaches our youth to fear failure and risk---taking, even though the courage to try, fail and iterate is vital for innovation. If we allowed people to learn outside academic institutions we could unleash human potential and empower everyone to change the world. The greatest challenge to this post---school vision is shifting the mindset of societies—and youth themselves—regarding the power and ability of the young. Youth are systematically disempowered in school. We are told we cannot learn on our own, and we cannot participate in society until we’ve met certain societal requirements—like obtaining a college degree. This discrimination discourages youth from reaching their full potential. Instead of confining young people to the classroom and forcing them into standard educational paradigms, we should encourage experiential and life- -based learning. Going to college is considered the only path to success but there are valid alternatives. One need only look at the examples of Richard Branson, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Steve Spielberg, Mark Zuckerburg, or Ingvar Kamprad—all of whom opted out of schooling—to understand that success does not depend upon school. These individuals achieved wild success because they chose to opt out of college and were able to pursue their passions to change the world. I want to empower students to consider alternatives to college, so I’m leading UnCollege, a social movement that is unleashing the potential of individuals to learn from life and change the world. The UnCollege movement constitutes two pieces: motivation and validation of experiential education. I’m writing a book and organizing a speaking tour toinspire individuals to take their education beyond the classroom. To validate lifewide learning experiences, I’m helping to build a platform called RadMatter that allows peopl to demonstrate their talents through a digital portfolio. Imagine if instead of going to college the millions of 18-22 year olds currently copying their professor’s words verbatim while figuring out how to coast through school to get the credentials necessary to get a job actually went out and started working, mcreating, and problem-solving in the world. Imagine if they started their own companies, schools, and initiatives. Imagine if we went back to learning as practiced in French Salons, where young people gathered to discuss, challenge and support each other in building a better world. Imagine the human capital we could cultivate and develop by allowing people learn from life instead of confining them to academic institutions.

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