The World has become A Lot More Interesting

It’s not a scoreboard that’s going to keep us prosperous and fulfilled.

It’s working to make our children into the people they need to be,
to carry us into a future we can’t even see,
people who will invent that future…

A while back, I did a little work with the Wake Education Partnership, for whom I delivered a 43 minute keynote for their members, including executives from IBM, SAS, RCB, a full dozen area chambers of commerce, etc. — I was in high cotton that day.

Their work is flowing through a document developed by a members committee, Suspending Disbelief (pdf) — and this is one of the best descriptions of new schools and new schooling that I have ever seen coming from a group that was mostly non-educators.

However, there is one assumption that is central to this document and much of the current flurry of ed reform rhetoric with which I do not agree.  It is the belief that we are engaged in an endeavor of competition, global competition, producing a competitive workforce.

I wonder if it is coming from people who are in the habit of counting things.  They count their sales, their circulation, their votes — and these are all very important things to count.  But our world is changing in some pretty dramatic ways, and much of that change can’t be measured or predicted.  The very rules are changing.

The political changes have probably not been better understood and utilized than by Barrack Obama and his astonishing movement for change.  Yet, it is the Obama administration, his Department of Education, that seems more intent on measuring, on racing to the top, than any before it.

I would love to see a study that determines if test scores would have predicted the extraordinary accomplishments of the creative, resourceful, dedicated, and relentless women and men who ushered in the digital revolution.  Were they all high achievers in their schools.  I would suspect that many of them were the guy in the next row, who often didn’t complete his homework, because he simply found something more interesting to spend his time on.

I do not believe that we should be working to make sure that our students know more than students in China and India.  It’s ridiculous when we consider that much of what they are taught, in a time of rapid change, will be obsolete by the time they enter their adult lives.

Today, it is not important to measure what our children can be taught.  In stead, we should figure out how to measure what they can gain through their growing skills of learning, curiosity, resourcefulness, and caring — and what they can do with what they’ve learned.

The world has become more cooperative, not competitive.  The world has become a lot more interesting…

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5 thoughts on “The World has become A Lot More Interesting”

  1. I agree that the competetive approach to develop curriculum has been a mistake. On a local scale, competition for students in programs of choice pits school against school, and, I think, weakens the ability of all schools to provide quality programs for all students. On a national and international scale, competition fails to recognize the cultural needs and differences of specific locations. Cooperation on the other hand provides the windows through which we both honor and adopt those practices which will benefit and engage learners more completely. By the way, I appreciate how you seem to be picking up that theme of student engagement in learning. I don’t know how we will be able to measure the success of our task to help students think more deeply about learning, but I’m sure you will be able to measure it, if anyone can.

  2. What you are describing in your summary of a blended enviroment of cooperation and competition has been coined by the business world already – coopetition. Companies that have viewed themselves as rivals in the past see synergy in working together to address the future and whatever this may bring. For students, coopetition seems to be a natural outcome of today’s learning environments.

  3. As always, your posts leave me intrigued as well as questioning what I can do to get the message out about “how to measure what they can gain through their growing skills of learning, curiosity, resourcefulness, and caring — and what they can do with what they’ve learned.” Also, being “globally competitive” has been a push for a while and one that I also questioned. Thank you for sharing your insight on all this and for motivating and encouraging us to take a closer look at how we can determine growth through authentic works created by our students. There is no greater pleasure than that of a child who can share what he or she has learned in their own way….thanks for all that you do for education!

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