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Google education evangelist says he’s living proof that education disrupts poverty

Nov 2, 2017

The Next Idea

The key to a successful future for Michigan includes turning out graduates with skill sets needed to fill the jobs of the future. It also includes increasing access to postsecondary education for low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students.

The upcoming Michigan Pre-College and Youth Outreach Conference will explore these challenges, and will focus on the urgency of college access.

The keynote speaker at this tenth annual conference is Jaime Casap, the Chief Education Evangelist for Google and a 10th grade communication skills educator at the Phoenix Coding Academy in Arizona.

Read highlights from Casap's conversation with Stateside's Cynthia Canty, or listen to the full conversation below. 

On how education changed his life

Casap is the son of a single mother, an immigrant from Argentina. He was born and raised in Hell's Kitchen, New York and grew up on welfare and food stamps.

“This is where my passion for education comes from is because I believe that education is what disrupts poverty. I believe that education can change a family’s destiny in just one generation, and I’m living proof of that. And there are millions of people who are like me who can also prove that.”

"I saw the common denominator of people who were successful being education, so I focused on doing my schoolwork and graduated from high school and going to college and going to graduate school. And I'm doing today what I'm doing because of education. Right, that's the power that education has – you can do this in one generation." 

"But more importantly, my kids are okay... and it's because of my fourth grade teacher, my ninth grade teacher. And so, that's the real power that we have with education, is that we can change families' lives in just one generation."

On how technology brings education to more people

“At the core of this is the ability to access information, right?”

“So when I was growing up, and living in Hell’s Kitchen [New York] and I had to do a book report, I had to go to the Columbus library on 51st Street and 10th Avenue. That’s where my information was. That’s where all my resources were. And it closed at 5:00 in the afternoon and basketball practice went 'til 4:45. It wasn’t open on the weekends and if I could find that book through that card catalog machine - where you had to memorize the 17-digit number because everyone stole the little pencils - I had to go find that book and there was a good chance that book wasn’t there because it wasn’t my library, right? It was everyone who lived in Hell’s Kitchen, everyone… all the schools in the neighborhood.”

“That is no longer true. I have 100 million Columbus libraries at my fingertips. And that changes everything. So this gives us an opportunity to really live up to this idea that information equals education. If we have access to all the information, then we can really change education. And so that at the core is where I think technology can play a huge role in learning.”

On why we need to stop asking kids what they want to be when they grow up

“We’re used to asking kids what they want to be when they grow up without the realization that we don’t know what the future holds, right? 60% of the jobs in the future don’t exist today. We’re constantly recreating new jobs – automation, robotics, machine learning, cloud computing will be impacting all jobs. And so, that question makes no sense anymore.”

“So I want to ask students, 'What problem do you want to solve? What’s the problem that spins in your head?' And, the more important question is, 'What do you need to learn to solve that problem? What are the knowledge, skills and abilities that you need to solve that problem?' And that gets us really close to the things that are critical, that motivate all of us, right? Which is purpose, autonomy, and mastery, which Daniel Pink talks about in his book Drive.”

The Next Idea is Michigan Radio’s project devoted to new innovations and ideas that will change our state.

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