Improving student achievement through innovation is the latest buzz in education. New test-prep programs, online learning platforms, e-texts, charter school hybrids, and so on are proliferating, but they are only changing the nature of how we deliver the same old content. No one seems to question exactly what students should be achieving beyond better test scores. What matters today, however, is not how much our students know, but what they can do with what they know. None of these innovations addresses this fundamental shift in what our students—and our nation—will need to succeed in the 21st century.
On November 10, 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa, an Ogoni author and Nobel peace prize nominee, was executed for trying to stop the ecological devastation wrought by Royal/Dutch Shell Oil Company and the murders and human rights violations against the Ogoni people by the Nigerian government on behalf of Shell (Sachs, 1996, p. 11). Similarly, Chico Mendez was assassinated in 1988 for trying to protect the jobs of Brazilian rubber tappers and stop deforestation of the Amazon rainforest by wealthy cattle ranchers (Sachs, 1995, pp.1-2). How do these events pertain to people in the United States? Are teachers prepared to help their students develop the global consciousness needed to support human rights and ecological sustainability?