Friday, December 17, 2010

The Global Achievement Gap, by Tony Wagner

Oh, what a fantastic read this was!  I identified with it so much, it was downright amusing!  And it's so exciting to see the classics/mentor type approach to learning in the bigger context, and applied to today's global economy.

The Global Achievement Gap, Why Even our Best Schools Don't Teach the New Survival Sills our Children Need-and What we Can do About It, by Tony Wagner brought together the TJE of homeschooling that I have come to love, as well as the needs of the general public.  Mostly.  :)

And even so, he wanted to hone his skills and ask questions and come to see the big picture.  Which he assumed he could be able to do 'on the job'. However, he found the other teachers completely unilling to discuss what works and what doesn't.  He wanted to 'shadow' some teachers, but they looked askance at him.  He asked his boss to come in and watch his class and give him tips, etc.  But he wouldn't do it.  Wagner also was a principal for a short period of time.  After some frustrations and disappointments, he went back for his masters and I think his doctorate.  He ended up working on the research end of education and was appalled that his experience was the general rule instead of the exception. 

His main complaint of the current education system is that it is incapable of raising up a generation of citizens and workers who will be able to compete in today's global economy.  The vast majority of public (and many private) schools teach 'to the test'.  They don't teach general thinking skills, but rather the facts that are on the tests. If their schools don't pass the test, they are not given the money and get a bad rap.  And this really is dumbing down our next generation of leaders.  He actually quoted from 'A Whole New Mind', and cited a number of the sources Pink quoted.  It was fun to read them back-to-back to get the big picture better. 

In order to be able to compete in the new global economy, it is going to be of utmost importance for people to think for themselves and be able to get along with others.  As a matter of fact, after research and reading and asking questions, he came up with 'Seven Survival Skills for Teens Today' that schools should be teaching instead of the current 'teach to the test'.

1.  Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
2.  Collaboration across Networks and Leading by Influence
3.  Agility and Adaptability
4.  Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
5.  Effective Oral and Written Communication
6.  Accessing and Analyzing Information
7.  Curiosity and Imagination

He agrees that there ought to be a 'core' of knowledge taught, although what that core ought to included in all education, although deciding what that core ought to include is almost impossible (and a bit socialistic in my opinion).  But, other then that core information, what really needs to be stressed is the overall story of life and how it all fits together and how it can be used and manipulated for today's needs.  People today have a glut of information available to them.  They need to be able to find information (google, books) and then sort through to find the pertinant info, and then place that info into the bigger picture.  Simply sorting through a google search can be overwhelming. But things like dates and names, etc, are easy to come by these days, and in the blink of an eye.  It's the skill of being able to sort through it that will make a person useful on the job. 
For example, if you can't remember the dates of World War II, you can easily find that information on the computer.  But trying to understand how WW II affected the world today is something that takes thinking and deductive skills.

Of course, using all of the usual information that is taught is the best way to teach the 7 Survival Skills.
But if the actual details are not remembered (and they must be in order to take most state tests today), then it's not a big loss. 

He spends the last part of the book doing 'walk throughs' of school that are implementing principles similar to his 7 Survival Skills'.  I'd love to visit them!  Here are a few of them:

High Tech High
Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School
the Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center

What fun to read about the teachers and students of these schools and to realize they really are living out the TJE model of learning and development.  And it works, even in big schools!

I still believe that all of the issues he addressed are most easily addressed at home.  But, I was excited to see that it could be done in a larger setting also.

1 comment:

  1. I think part of the issues also is that parents believe and think that education is solely the responsibilty of the school system and therefore do not help teach there kids. Teachers can only do so much. Emily is in one of the schools right now who's kids did not test high enough and are being pushed to push their kids. They don't even have time to teach cutting with a scissors and other things we learned in kindergarden. If they don't pass this year there could be huge consequence district wide.