Egypt on the rise

Last Spring a young Egyptian woman, Mona, contacted me in her effort to visit K-12 classes while she studied at UC Berkeley for the summer, wishing to see our use of technology in our classrooms.  There were logistical difficulties owing to our now very limited summer school offerings, but we managed to set up some class visits for her at a couple of our sites including our charter New Tech Network high school, Da Vinci Academy.

Regrettably I was unable to meet Mona due to my own summer travels, but she apparently left grateful for the time she silver keychain with Egyptian symbolswas able to spend with us.  On my desk this morning I found an envelope with a keychain, the fob pictured here.  In a subsequent email exchange, she called it a “humble gift,” though while perhaps humble, I found it moving and deeply thought-provoking.

I have referred to recent events in the “Arab Spring” in previous posts to this blog, and Mona’s visit has brought those events even closer to my professional world view.

On numerous occasions throughout my career, I have been visited by international teams of educators, mostly from Asia, intent on learning how it is we Americans do what we do.  These were nations that were building infrastructure and slowly growing their social systems, rethinking how education should be done, and reaching for ideas.  If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice the citizens of Singapore, Shanghai, and South Korea haven’t done so badly for themselves over the past twenty years.  Now the visits and learning are traveling from the West to the East as we grapple with our own value systems and the defunding of education.

Egypt and other Arab countries on the distant other hand, rather than slowly developing a system, are in a head-long charge to remake their societies.  In London and Philadelphia young people use Facebook and Twitter to vandalize their neighborhoods out of boredom and general adolescent disgust with authorities.  In Cairo and Alexandria, young people are using these technologies to remake their world into something meaningful, changing governments, lighting their way to the future.

I have found myself increasingly envious of Mona as an educator in Egypt.  To be an technology-oriented educator in a country that is hungry for relevance, powered by people impassioned by a vision of the future that provides a world in which they want their grandchildren to prosper would be a dream.

Perhaps if we in America can look abroad for these examples of people looking beyond their personal and immediate comfort and affluence to focus on the future they are creating, we may avoid international irrelevance.

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