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Classroom Supermen: A Global Vision for the Future of Education

February 25, 2011, 12:56 PM
Avenues

If you had a chance to create the perfect K-12 educational institution from scratch - and if money was no object - how would you do it? You'd probably start by hand-selecting some of the smartest and most talented educators in the world to develop the vision for the school. Then, you'd ask them to implement a radically new global curriculum that ensures that graduates would become leaders on the future world stage. To make this a reality, you'd make sure that the student body had ready access to the finest educational, artistic and athletic resources in the world. For good measure, you'd bring in a world-class architectural firm to design a stunning building and situate the educational institution in the center of one of the most vibrant cities in the world.

That's the vision for Avenues: The World School, a unique for-profit educational institution opening its doors in New York City's High Line district in 2012. The final goal - brought to you by former Yale President Benno Schmidt and educational pioneer Christopher Whittle (founder of Edison Schools) is to create a truly global educational institution with twenty satellite campuses all over the world - in places like India, China, Brazil, Russia and Europe. By the time that they graduate, students will be fluent in Spanish and Mandarin, at home in any international environment, and confident contributors in the arts (thanks to partnerships with NYC art galleries in Chelsea). To make that vision a reality, Whittle and Schmidt have assembled a top-tier leadership team that includes former heads at some of the nation's elite private schools - Hotchkiss, Exeter and Dalton.

At a recent presentation for the vision of the school at the Harvard Club in New York City, Whittle emphasized that Avenues was an idea whose time has come. (And as we know from Victor Hugo, nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.) The world is truly global now, and that means that the U.S. educational system must now also be truly global in scope. Business schools have known this for some time, setting up satellite schools in Europe and Asia. Even some of the most elite universities in the U.S. - such as Yale - are now exploring partnerships with schools in places like Singapore. So it's only natural that this global trend is starting to manifest itself at the K-12 level.

Which is not to say that institutions like Avenues will fix the U.S. educational system. Critics, no doubt, will argue that Avenues is simply another in the line of other for-profit institutions that are geared towards the parents of the global elite in cities like New York City. The gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" is surely widening.

Does it mean that the Wait for Superman is almost over?

Perhaps not. But it does mean that a lot of very smart people are putting their collective heads together to deliver a vision for the future of education. If, as Edward Glaeser suggests, we are witnessing The Triumph of the City, then the future of education will likely take its cue from the unprecedented pace of development in urban areas like Mumbai and Shanghai where cities are developing the fastest. No longer can a parent of a child in New York City ignore what happens a continent away.

[image: Avenues New York]

More from the Big Idea for Friday, February 25 2011

 

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