Dr. Jane Foley is a leading U.S. educator who motivates other teachers to do better. Here are her thoughts on the ‘smart’ debate:

How do you define smart?

I’d define it in a number of ways. First of all, it’s understanding history and how history shapes the present and future. Next, it’s the present: knowing the world around you, physically, but also beyond your surroundings and accepting and appreciating that we live in this global world. It’s also important to understand math, science and language, but also how you apply that in your daily and professional life. And then how to access information and discern the value of that information since we’re bombarded by info overload.

Is the definition of ‘smart’ changing?

Yes. Exponentially, and at a rate faster than we’ve seen in our lifetime. We see our students preparing now for a life where we don’t even know what their career will be, so access to this information — it’s changing the way all of us have to think, learn and work.

We value ‘book smarts’ but now there seems to be an additional set of skills required to make it in this world.

It’s a hybrid. We want to learn the classics — the past — and our current culture — the present — but we have to evolve with the changes. Books can be hard copies or digital, e-mail, social media, by phone like we’re talking now, or a face-to-face meeting. I go to a lot of universities in my job and people still go to libraries! There’s still a lust for knowledge.


But some kids don’t read Moby-Dick yet they’re on Google+. Doesn’t that give them the advantage in 2011?

First of all, some do read Moby-Dick! Do they have an advantage? I don’t think you can compare. Think of every generation and what they faced. My parents faced WWII, a lot of us lived through the ending of the Cold War, now young people are digital natives. The common denominator is talented people rise to the occasion and lead. The difference today is that it’s essential for them to have a national and international focus.

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