…and as I continued reading, I had to admit that:
- Things really haven’t changed that much in education.
- It’s our own fault.
- Our decision to stick with tradition hasn’t helped to prepare students for a future in the innovation era.
You see, back in the 80’s, we began to evaluate whether or not the time had come to make some big changes to our educational model. Some advocated for a complete overhaul of our educational system while others advocated for minimal change. Unfortunately, we failed to find the middle ground between the two.
“The United States made the exact wrong bet, choosing to double down on our obsolete education system. … [We] picked the wrong goal and failed at it. We opted to chase South Korea and Singapore on standardized test performance instead of educating our youth for a world of innovation and opportunity. … Student and teacher engagement levels have plummeted in the face of a steady diet of test prep” (pp. 26-27).
Now, to some degree I would suggest that Wagner and Dintersmith may be overstating things a bit. I think I agree with their overall point, but let’s face it: back in the 80’s, nobody could have possibly foreseen the changes that were to come–especially those changes that occurred after the turn of the century. Who could have guessed that cell phones would become “Smart” phones and would have changed our world, society, and culture as much as they did?
But, that doesn’t change the fact the those changes did happen (whether we had prepared for them or not).
“As we moved into the twenty-first century, the internet exploded, changing our society and challenging our educational system in profound ways. Pre-Internet, we lived in a world of knowledge scarcity. The best sources of information were schools and libraries. But with ubiquitous interconnectivity, knowledge became a free commodity available on every Internet-connected device. ‘Knowledge workers’ have become obsolete” (p.27).
And as any good educator knows, knowledge is the lowest level of learning. Our goal is to ensure that students not only have knowledge and understand that knowledge, but more importantly, that students are able to apply that knowledge and use it to evaluate the world around them and create new ideas.
What, then, are we to make of our current education system with its focus on knowledge acquisition? How do we as educators begin to capitalize on the abundance of knowledge and information, helping students learn how to leverage that information in innovative ways? How do we get educators to spend less time on giving students knowledge and more time on teaching students to think critically, apply knowledge, and utilize their understanding to synthesize new ideas that are relevant to our global economy?
These are the questions that I wrestle with as a principal each day.
As the authors conclude the chapter, they continue to somewhat overstate the problem (in my opinion) and are bit dramatic in their attempt to seek a solution. But that is not to say that they don’t make a valid point.
“To make real progress in preparing all students to succeed in the twenty-first century, schools need to tap into the passions of students, help them develop critical skills and decisive life advantages, and inspire them. Engaged students and motivated teachers are capable of making stunning advances–in critical thinking and creative problem-solving, in citizenship preparation, in character development, and in career readiness” (p. 50).
And isn’t this the goal we have at SkyView? (Isn’t this the goal we have–or at least should have–at every school in the country?) It makes me curious to see what the authors suggest in subsequent chapters.
Wagner, T. and Dintersmith, T. (2015). Most likely to succeed, preparing our kids for the innovation era. New York: New York.