I stumbled upon this opinion piece about inventing the job you need. Wagner asserts that schools need to focus more on teaching innovation than “college and career readiness skills.” I’ve noticed that these “readiness” skills include such talents as “blindly obeying authority” and giving a conditioned response to certain stimuli. In other words, working without thinking or problem solving.
These are skill sets that belong to cogs in the industrial and corporate machine, but these are not skills which will motivate people to excellence, nor will it help them advance in their careers. It’s not the mid-line assembly line worker who becomes president of the company; it’s the person who figures out who to produce the goods cheaper and quicker who rises up in the ranks.
The problem with the current educational model is, students are taught “college and career readiness,” they are taught to pass a series of standardized tests, but there is no room for teachers to teach critical thinking skills, logic, or reasoning; or to encourage outside-the-box thinking. These are cognitive skills that innovators possess. Teachers are forced to focus so heavily on “teaching the tests” and making sure that their students pass, that they have no time to encourage group work or collaborative efforts. Being able to work in groups and being interdependent is crucial to team success, and this team success leads to professional success as more and more work settings feature teams more than individual efforts.
As I look at my daughters and how they think and process – how we’re teaching them to think and process – part of me is frightened for them. You see, I want my daughters to think outside-the-box. I want them to innovate and create, to conceive ideas and test them out to see if they’ll work. These are hallmarks for their future success; I’ve long felt this way. Way before the days of Common Core, my older daughter’s kindergarten teacher advised, “She needs a teacher who can think outside the box, who can teach creatively” to optimize her learning potential. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, which is what lead to our decision to home educate.
My older daughter thrives in math, which tends to be a pretty “black-and-white” subject – right answers or wrong answers, not nearly the subjective grey area of analyzing literature or writing. Yet, we have found the grey area in how she achieves her answers. I may work a problem one way; my daughter works it a different way. We can do this math mentally, take the same amount of time doing it, come up with the same answer but by two very different means. Today’s public school-educated children are told to solve their problems one way and only one way. We ascribe to the belief, It doesn’t matter how you get the answer, as long as it’s correct and you can justify your process. In other words, whether it’s math or life or relationships, there is more than one way to find solutions.
While I am a little afraid that my girls won’t have the “federally mandated” programming/brainwashing of their public school-educated peers and this might lead to a certain array of struggles for them, at the same time, I am peaceful in the knowledge that I am preparing them to work around the system, to innovate, not merely to memorize facts to regurgitate back on a bubble sheet. They will be the innovators, the outside-the-box thinkers, the movers and shakers. My girls will have the staff who obeys without thinking, who knows how to do exactly as they’re told.