No matter their overarching ideological differences, prominent CEOs, state politicians, and noteworthy political figures found common ground when they gathered in Washington this week to discuss the state of the nation’s educational system at a summit held by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a group founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. That common ground? Technology, reports U.S. News & World Report. Whether it’s near-ubiquitous devices such as smartphones and iPads or social media meccas like Twitter, technology that has been developed within the past five years is woven into nearly everyone’s daily life. Yet the American school system has been left behind, educational policymakers point out. “It’s interesting to me that technology has actually transformed how we interact together socially. It has transformed how we do business, but technology has yet to transform how we provide education,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said at the Dec. 1 summit. “We could do simple stuff like eliminate art and music and cut days out of the school year…eliminate sports and band. [These are] simple things to do, none of which are good for children. Or we could think about how we’re going to become more productive, [and] how we’ll become more efficient using technology.” 

William Simon, CEO of the U.S. division of Wal-Mart, America’s largest employer, and Edward Rust, the top executive at insurance company State Farm, both indicated at the conference that they’re unsatisfied with the state of the incoming workforce, citing young workers’ general inability to efficiently use critical thinking skills and to adapt to the ever-changing technology that surrounds them on the job. Rust noted that 60 percent of applicants looking to join State Farm are unable to pass a basic entrance exam that focuses on the fundamentals of math and critical thinking. Wal-Mart has already responded to this problem by offering employees a chance to sharpen their mind and earn college credit at a discounted rate via American Public University, an online school. “We can’t even imagine what education or technology will be like in 10 years,” said Simon. “Students need to be not only trained in that, but they need to be taught how to learn.” 

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