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Frank Bruni moderated another great forum exploring complex issues facing Higher Education. The NY Times always delivers a speaker lineup of thoughtful luminaries who are willing to candidly share their views and ideas. Michael Bloomberg has launched a new well-funded foundation to provide productive post-secondary pathways to college, vocational education, and technical training. California Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley echoed the refrain of appropriate placement and job connections for the 2.2 million community college students he represents. I was most struck when hearing about the food insecurity (36%) and homelessness (14%) issues facing many college students nationally. Our Times host kept emphasizing the need for civil discourse and highlighted the important role Higher Ed plays in providing a venue for free speech.

In my fourth year attending the event, I now know to approach these two days with an inquisitive open mind and relax my need to make an immediate application from the topics discussed. These are the key musings or additional questions I have as I reflect on my experience:

Identify more paths for “life success” and celebrate them – The implied well-worn pathway to the American Dream trudging through a four-year college experience is not the norm. The majority of this year’s high school graduates will not attain a four-year degree in the next four (or even six) years. As I sat in our daughter’s HS graduation Saturday, I noticed the assumptive tone parents and graduates had about their upcoming college experience. In past articles, I have written about the impact of AI/robotics as a potential guaranteed basic income. I wonder how employable these graduates will be in a decade from now? As always, Simon Sinek delivered his passion-centered message in his latest finite game versus infinite game concept. A notion that will give me months of food for thought, both personally, and for our small business.

Explore shuffling the deck on education financing – Who should lead the needed restructuring of our post-secondary framework for education? Federal and state governance and regulation seem to be struggling to keep up with the fluidity of learning delivery models. If education provides more competency-based demonstrative outputs – is there a need for accrediting bodies? Does the Title IV funding model become augmented or replaced with varied sources of support from employers, foundations, associations, or communities with specific needs? Senator Lamar Alexander challenged us to think about different ways to fund our future youth and not rely heavily on federal monies.

Embrace a variable path for Post-Secondary Education – How can we provide a post-secondary educational path that addresses both the coming of age experience for young adults and job readiness needed for our youth to become productive members of society? I have been musing on this question since my own high school experience where it was clear to me that my classmates and I all had different gifts and maturity rates. I realize as I write, that this issue is a foundational reason I first started MindMax 30 years ago. In this recent iteration of MindMax, I am delighted that we serve those whose paths are less of a straight line. I believe we need to broaden the options for our young people (and all people) and celebrate the different routes people take to reach their own destiny. Our world changes so rapidly, and that rate of change will only increase in the future. We will need as many creative and differing viewpoints as possible to realize a successful coexistence as our global relationships and economies become more interconnected.

Interestingly, my final comment to Frank Bruni was, that I would like to hear more about Higher Ed and less political discussion next year. I need to recant that opinion after a week-long reflection. An educated populace is a fundamental requirement for a functioning democracy as noted by many since the ancient Greeks. Several of the sessions explored how to create space for free speech on campus, safety, and most importantly civil discourse.  Alan Dershowitz invited us to really listen to others especially when we don’t agree, and then look inside to determine why we don’t agree. David Axelrod made it clear that truly complex problems or conflicts aren’t going to be solved with a tweet. Creating space for open thoughtful disagreement may be a primary role of the higher education experience.

I’m grateful to participate and explore with so many other committed educators who are wrestling with hard decisions about how to create safe, engaging, formative experiences in their educational institutions. My favorite phrase in my own learning experience is “I don’t know.” It is my starting point for any true new discovery. It was great fun to be alongside others who are open to not knowing and willing to learn and explore together.