Today's date:
  Nobel Laureates Plus



Yo-Yo Ma is one of the world's most renowned cellists.

By Yo-Yo Ma

We live in a world of 194 countries, over 6 billion people and more than 6,900 languages. We are asked what kind of education will prepare a student to live on such a planet. What tools do people need to become architects of their own lives? In a highly competitive hierarchical world driven by tests and measurable results, I would like to propose four priorities for education that are hard to measure and easy to ignore, yet they are vitally important and within reach for all of us.

My conclusions are drawn from my work as a musician, and my first priority is based in a common goal that musicians and teachers share: to make the communication of their content memorable. By memorable, I mean the listeners or students become transported by their experience of the music or subject. The content, then, remains active and accessible in their minds and can grow and connect to future experiences. Our stories will be different, but I’m sure that each of us can recall a teacher whose inspiration transformed our lives.

Content that is memorable becomes a key ingredient in the second priority, passion-driven education. Education driven by passion awakens us to a world bigger than ourselves and makes us curious. Learning becomes self-sustaining as it transforms from a requirement to a desire. Students who are passionate are a pleasure to teach, and teachers who are passionate share their knowledge generously. In fact, teaching becomes learning and vice versa. Passion-driven education liberates students and gives them the self-confidence to discover who they are as individuals and how they fit in the world.

The next priority I’d like to mention is the development of a disciplined imagination. Imagination draws on all of our intelligences, senses, experiences and intuition to construct possible scenarios. Through imagination, we are able to transcend our present local reality and envision distant futures. It allows us to think not only about the tools people need today, but about the tools our children will need to contribute to the world they will share. Imagination is the great engine that powers the arts and sciences, and it is an available resource for all to use.

Disciplined imagination leads me to the final priority: empathy. To be able to put oneself in another’s shoes without prejudgment is an essential skill. Empathy comes when you understand something deeply, and can thus make unexpected connections. These parallels bring you closer to things that would otherwise seem far away. In our world of specialization, compartmentalization and myriad responsibilities, empathy is the ultimate quality that acknowledges our identity as members of the human family.

In our complex world, it is crucial thateducators have the tools to help students understand not only their own lives,but the broadest possible horizons as well. An education that incorporates thefour priorities of making the subject memorable, inspiring passion-drivenlearning, developing a disciplined imagination and fostering empathy willresult in citizens who are active participants in shaping a future of which wecan all be proud.

© 2008 Global Viewpoint, distributed by Tribune Media Services