“Wake up kids, we’ve got the dreamer’s disease.” ~ New Radicals
America is an amazing melting pot of cultures, religions, ideas, and stories. We have immigration problems because people dream of freedom. We have political problems because people dream of a better world. We have education problems because people dream of opportunities. We are a country plagued with problems that all point to one solution. People.
We develop lofty ideals that take the form of mission and vision statements. They are carefully crafted sentences to convey the purpose behind higher education institutions, business corporations, and non-profit organizations. It seems, however, that news articles, scandals, and legal battles tell a different story. We need to reexamine our purpose. Do we really believe in our mission and vision statements or are they words meant for short-term inspiration while our actions communicate something different?
Higher education is about more than just preparing individuals for the next in-demand job or simply achieving another milestone on the path to adulthood. Higher education is an opportunity to demonstrate how much we, as a society, care about our greatest resource, people. Higher education is about providing a place where people discover their talents, dreams, and passions. It’s a place where people from all walks of life, backgrounds, and experiences come together to focus on issues, challenges, and opportunities that make us equals. It’s about providing pathways that allow people to achieve their potential.
Our individual stories make us all unique. No two people share identical perspectives or problems. No two people learn the same way. No two people should be required to follow the same path or criticized for their choices. Higher education has the chance to change the conversation. Fred Kofman, defines conscious business as “finding your passion and expressing your essential values through your work.” A conscious business is a model that “produces sustainable, exceptional performance through the solidarity of its community and the dignity of each member.” It’s about putting people first.
Higher education needs to adopt a conscious college model. One that focuses not on labeling students (traditional or non-traditional), but on supporting their discovery of talent, praising creativity, and encourage learning from failure. Mostly, a conscious college model embraces each individual for who they are, their unique attributes, their diversity of perspectives, and their stories. We need to put people first.
We will never be able to overcome racism, sexual abuse, bullying, or other injustices until we see past what makes us different and focus on what makes us the same. Our humanity. We all need to catch the dreamer’s disease, not try and find a cure.
“Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it.” ~ Wilferd Peterson
How does your institution support dreamers?