Archive for the ‘Notes on Education Reform’ Category

As a society, we must figure out how to rapidly re-skill a vast number of people on an ongoing basis to both remain relevant globally and to avoid long periods of high unemployment. ~ Harvard Business Review There is a gap between what schools teach and what employers need their employees to know. The highest-growing job sectors –among both white-collar (biochemists, market research analysts) and blue-collar (contractors, electricians) jobs — are those in which extensive preparation and up-to-date skill development is required. Low-skill jobs (postal mail carriers, switchboard operators) are becoming more and more scarce. A study by the Harvard Business Review and Deloitts’s Shift Index found that America is in a “cycle of obsolescence”: what students learn in college is obsolete within a few years. The result is that college graduates can’t find jobs — more than half of those who have received a college degree since 2006 cannot find full-time jobs, according […]

In Spiritual Intelligence, The Ultimate Intelligence, Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall, write, “The young son of a Chilean biologist, Umberto Maturana, became unhappy at school because he felt his teachers were making it impossible for him to learn. They wanted to teach him what they knew, rather than drawing out what he needed to learn. As a result Maturana wrote “The Student’s Prayer,” of which this translation is an abridged version. It expresses the spiritually intelligent individual’s response to the conforming pressures of parents, teachers, bosses or the crowd.” A Student’s Prayer Umberto Maturana Don’t impose on me what you know, I want to explore the unknown And be the source of my own discoveries. Let the known be my liberation, not my slavery. The world of your truth can be my limitation; Your wisdom my negation. Don’t instruct me; let’s walk together. Let my richness begin where yours ends. Show me so […]

In his book The Global Achievement Gap, educator Tony Wagner identifies the core competencies everyone should master by the end of high school: Critical thinking and problem solving (the ability to ask the right questions) Collaboration across networks and leading by influence Agility and adaptability Initiative and entrepreneurialism Accessing and analyzing information Effective written and oral communication Curiosity and imagination How to teach these competencies? Perhaps by following the mantra, “First do no harm.” In another book, Creating Innovators, Wagner identifies five ways in which current educational practices actively undermine the development of these competencies: By focusing on individual achievement (e.g., GPA), schools fail to promote collaboration skills. By rewarding specialization, which hinders innovation. Wagner says the director of talent at Google once told him, “If there’s one thing that educators need to understand, it’s that you can neither understand nor solve problems within the context and bright lines of subject content.” By penalizing mistakes, which makes students risk-averse. […]

After the invention of the printing press, Europe experienced a Renaissance in art, science, and scholarship. Will the new learning structures made possible by the web allow a neo-Renaissance in our own time? Fred Wilson, VC and principal of Union Square Ventures, recently assembled a group of “leading thinkers, educators, and entrepreneurs” to talk about reinventing the “traditional school model of education.” The web, says Wilson, “transfers control from institutions to individuals and it is going to do that to education too.” How? According to Wilson’s group: (1) “The student . . . is increasingly going to take control of his/her education including choice of . . . curriculum.” We now have not only the web, but also a rise in crowdsourced knowledge. I think this would in many ways be a positive development. The most finely wrought curriculum in the world is of little value if it is not tailored to the needs, interests, and […]

A study of our academic elite In an Atlantic Monthly article from 2001, “The Organization Kid,” David Brooks writes about going to Princeton University to learn about “what the young people who are going to be running our country in a few decades are like.”What Brooks found with respect to the over-structured lives of the Princeton undergraduates he spoke to is very close to how I remember my undergraduate classmates at Harvard from 1999 to 2003: I asked several students to describe their daily schedules, and their replies sounded like a session of Future Workaholics of America: crew practice at dawn, classes in the morning, resident-adviser duty, lunch, study groups, classes in the afternoon, tutoring disadvantaged kids in Trenton, a cappella practice, dinner, study, science lab, prayer session, hit the StairMaster, study a few hours more. One young man told me that he had to schedule appointment times for chatting with his friends. No time […]