My proud Tennessee heritage and tradition has taught me while one person cannot do everything, one person can do something to make our society a more compassionate and decent place. I guess the simple advice my dad gave me as young man still rings in my ears: "Leave the world a better place than you found it." It is a pretty simple thought, yet very profound.
I have learned the future does not belong to those who are content with today; rather it belongs to those who embrace new ideas and a bold vision. More importantly those who blend passion, reason and a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American society will be the ones who shape the future. This is the seminal spirit of the American experiment. It is the spirit in which we must endeavor to operate.
We know we are living in a world on the edge of epochal change, where children do not need authority figures to access information. For the first time in history, children have new and different ways of acquiring and accessing, deciphering and digesting information instantly.
Children are now contributors, not just copiers, of existing knowledge. Much of what people born before 1963 learned has become irrelevant as we move more fully into the Digital Age. The challenge is to "think outside the box." Leaders who can convey this message will be successful.
We cannot be more focused on inculcating memories of the past than on designing visions of the future. This has massive consequences for art, literature, music, spirituality and other manifestations of the human spirit. The seeds of an education revolution have been planted.
We know educational excellence is critical for our culture and our country to survive. Reforms which touch every area of education at once is clearly not possible. We have to make good choices, and sometimes these choices are difficult choices.
We must focus on kids first and foremost. Yet we also must focus on those who teach our children.
We must make strategic investments, and our first priority is to do things that will benefit children the most.
Our strategic planning process must lay a foundation for the nation's future. We must recognize a specific timetable for realizing its vision may take time, but we must distinguish ourselves in the areas for the greater public good.
At the same time, we must do a better job of recruiting and retaining faculty. Higher education must become more attainable for our citizens.
We will transform education in our state and we will overcome structural barriers that limit our success. We must think about what is our overall vision and dream and evaluate it every now and then.
Either we make history or we become history. If ever there was a time for on the edge, over the top, out of the box leadership it is now.
In order to challenge low performing schools, I believe three points should be considered: (1) All students should be challenged to meet their highest academic potential in each classroom, school or system with a multitude of government and non-government providers of education. (2) Parents should be able to choose the most suitable placement or school for their child. (3) Schools should also be regulated by, and accountable to the marketplace of parents exercising free selection of schools.
Following my stint as Governor Jeb Bush's Chief Education Policy Analyst, I had an incredible opportunity to work at the Florida Department of Education's Choice Office, where I got to observe the nation's most innovative choice program up close.
Our mission was to provide the assistance needed to help children receive the finest education possible. An education that meets their needs and helps all students achieve and all schools improve. I had an opportunity to learn an important truth like: the job is not finished.
Florida continues to assist in the development of new charter schools, traditional private schools, and other schools and schooling concepts by providing consultation when requested and networking key agencies together. Well meaning government officials provide counsel and expertise as needed, but they cannot do it alone. Strong groups and outside organizations are vital to future success. All groups deserve to be represented at the discussion table equally, as we all have a stake in the success of education of children.
We will also see new and exciting alliances formed. I have been a huge advocate of public/private partnerships and utilizing higher education resources in the K-12 setting. We must create a seamless system of education. Florida has done a remarkable job in moving the nation in that direction, but we have much more left to do.
School districts, magnet schools, charter schools, home schools and private schools need all of our assistance to move the nation forward to meet the challenges of the Twenty-First Century.
Our journey may take different paths, but the objective must remain: Improvement of K-12 education is necessary, so that the young people in America will have an opportunity to compete for jobs in an increasingly complex and global society, as well as personal self-fulfillment.
The hope for our children is that they will be able to ensure for America the domestic tranquillity of an educated population and secure their own personal fulfillment.
Those who believe they can avoid change are extremely naïve. Those who embrace change will undoubtedly rise to the challenge.
Abraham Lincoln said it best: "We must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves."