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Why the future demands that kids learn to think globally

Young Americans don’t know a lot about the rest of the world, says Dana Mortenson, CEO of World Savvy, and the byproduct is fear of what we don’t understand. Her company reimagines K-12 education to leverage diversity as an asset. Mortensen gives her Brief but Spectacular take on being a savvy global citizen.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Next: another installment of our weekly Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask people about their passions.

    Tonight, Dana Mortenson, CEO of World Savvy, which is a national education program, she is working to prepare students for a more diverse, globally connected world.

  • Dana Mortenson:

    The demographic changes across this country are phenomenal.

    In 1970, the population of the U.S. was 88 percent white. By 2010, that had dropped to 75 percent white, and it's estimated that, by 2050, that number be 47 percent. So, for the first time, we will be a collective majority. No single ethnicity or culture will be in majority in this country. And that's already true for the population under 18.

    Students definitely find international affairs intimidating. Most of the studies that you see over the last several decades is that Americans, particularly young Americans, don't know a lot about the rest of the world.

    And so a natural byproduct of that is fear of things that we don't know and that we don't understand. So, World Savvy is a national movement that's reimaging K-12 education.

    And the way we work is by focusing on student engagement, to take complex issues in the world and learn about them and to create knowledge to action projects that help them take action, so that you can leverage diversity in the classroom as an asset.

    A lot of our methodology is around saying, we don't believe young people have potential to lead in the future, but that you have that in the present.

    The way that international affairs was taught for so many years was sort of food flag festival. We made a buche de noel. We celebrated Cinco de Mayo. We had a Black History Month.

    Shifting that and allowing young people to kind of do two things, one, to explore themselves, their history and their identity in that place and space, and then also allowing them to kind of move towards the issues they're passionate about, is a really critical way to kind of get them hooked on wanting to know something outside themselves.

    The reality is, we are not preparing young people for a standardized world. The only sort of common thread with what young people will encounter after they graduate is change, particularly when you think about the kinds of problems that this next generation will inherit.

    We're looking at climate change, migration, poverty, war, grappling with how technology will advance.

    The other way we're sort of falling short with K-12 education is that that focus on achievement and how we have defined what it is leaves very little room to measure what matters.

    If you ask most parents what they want for their young people, in addition to just graduating from school, they want them to be good people, to be able to work with others. Those are things that get lost in translation because people think they can't be embedded into educational discourse or that they lack rigor, when, truly, it can be done. It can be done, and it can be measured.

    My name is Dana Mortenson, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on being World Savvy.

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