EDITORIAL – Beginning today, let’s ALL go back to school

Even as thousands of Cayman’s students return to school today, tens of thousands more should also be hitting the books – meaning all of us. Just as playwright George Bernard Shaw once remarked, “Youth is wasted on the young,” the same could be said about education. It should begin at childhood and end at, well, “the end.”

When Cayman public school students return home at the end of their first day, many parents will ask, “What did you learn today?” The students should ask their elders the same question.

A common refrain is that, historically, Cayman’s schools were slow – or even negligent – in providing a first-class education to the youth of these islands. Frankly, we share in that concern. Too many adults educated in Cayman’s public schools today find themselves handicapped in competing in a global job market which, by definition, includes all leading financial centers and upscale tourism destinations.

But the good news is that no one on these islands – or anywhere, for that matter – needs to think that their last day in the classroom was the final day of their learning. It was not.

The publisher of this newspaper recalls with fondness a summer many years ago when a young lady, who had just completed high school, reported to him to begin her internship on the Editorial Page of The Washington Post. Like so many others, she was bright and eager but not particularly well educated and certainly not well read. The conversation began something like this:

“I don’t know what, if anything, I can teach you about journalism, but I do know that when you leave at the end of the summer, you will have a thorough knowledge of English grammar and a pretty good introduction into classical literature.”

Our next stop was a bookstore where we bought two copies of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” and a traditional textbook on English grammar. We each began on Page One together, and soon dozens of other Post employees, from white collar executives to blue collar craftsmen, joined in.

We became, albeit inadvertently, what Dr. Peter Senge, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, describes as a “learning organization.”

Cayman as a country, could, and should, do the same. Every person at every level could be improving themselves every day through education. The education need not be formal, but it can be. Both UCCI and ICCI have a fine menu of offerings for Caymanians who want to re-enter the world of learning.

Likewise, Cayman’s educators, and those among us who want to continue our educations, should familiarize themselves with Coursera, which presents online courses on every subject imaginable and which boasts 31 million registered learners. These courses are taught by some of the world’s most esteemed professors at many of the world’s leading colleges and universities, including Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Johns Hopkins and dozens more. As of today, more than 2,500 courses are available online FREE, with new courses opening this morning in subjects as diverse as “A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment” and “Computational Investing.” Sign up, sign up!

At Pinnacle Media, the parent company of the Compass, we’ve recently begun a book/reading club for all of our managers and anyone else who wishes to join in. We expect our people to read (and not only our newsroom staff whose job it is to write).

Companywide, our current title is “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” by Chris McChesney and Sean Covey. It’s a highly regarded guide to getting things done – such as re-igniting the quest for learning, knowledge and inspiration. Feel free to join in and begin your own school year!