This past Monday and Tuesday Michigan lawmakers, business owners, and educators convened in Detroit for the 2015 Michigan Governors Economic and Educational Summit. The goal, to continue an effort begun two years ago to create collaborative efforts between colleges & universities, K-12 schools, industry, and government to develop out students in to ‘top talent’. Silos needed to be broken down to create a seamless space with a shared mission.
Collaborations with multiple partners is a challenge. Each must give up old routines and step out of their comfort zones, sacrificing the security of old ways to risk failures to achieve unprecedented rewards. Mohammad Ali once stated “the man who views the world at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” This message has resonated at each of the Governors past three Summits. Industry is changing with increased automation and technological advances, our students are now digital natives who can access any information with a finger and a smartphone, and how we teach them must change to accommodate for their propensity to learn through hands-on engagement. The world has changed a lot in 30 years and we must change with it.
Michigan School Superintendent Mike Flanagan will be retiring in July, leaving behind a legacy of over 30 years in education. He is the longest serving State Superintendent in Michigan’s history. His ten years of service included serving under both Republican and Democratic governors.
Flanagan reflected on his time in education with some short lessons learned that those at the summit should consider as they craft their next steps towards prosperity: never hire anyone dumber than you are, looking good is not as good as being good, teachers are the #1 force in the world, and give each of our kids hope first. Flanagan went on to add be weary of what people want. He quoted Henry Ford’s famous statement “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse”, supporting Flanagan’s philosophy.
Flanagan’s final word of advice was that student success is based on the efforts of many including industry, government, communities, educators, parents, and peers. Each of us has had times or trouble where we have gotten off course and stumbled. Success is born from the support networks we offer for our young students and each other.
He went on to share the story of Derek Redmond, an Olympic sprinter in the 1992 Olympics. Derek was the favorite to win the 400m dash. The rest of his story can be viewed through a YouTube video. Derek was able to achieve victory while experiencing the agony of defeat with the support of his father in this unique and symbolic gesture.
The message from Governor Snyder and retiring Superintendent Flanagan was that the success of Michigan economically is the development and retention of talent through our efforts in education. This effort must be collaborative, where the lines between industry, community, education, and government are blurred. As we move forward we must remember the inspirational words of Winston Churchill, “A pessimist see the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”