Teach the Future, Foster Innovation
By Deanna Kuhn
The Common Core State Standards, along with the recently released Next Generation Science Standards, [It is things like these that need to go.] have educators mobilized, even if uneasy. Many are hopeful these rigorous new standards will fix whatever is wrong with American education and boost U.S. standing in international comparisons. Why shouldn’t U.S. students be scoring at the top on these tests, along with Singapore and Finland? [Why should they be? Also, you are using averages. We have more of the top scorers, by far, over second place Japan, than any other country. These will be, hopefully, our future leaders, not the average person. We do not need and should not want a nation of leaders.]
I’ve just returned from a meeting in Singapore, whose education leaders meet frequently to take stock and look ahead, and I was interested in what might be on their minds. Are they resting on their laurels, content that their national investment in education has paid off—perhaps even hesitant to make any changes to what appears to be working so well? [One or two PISA test results means they have succeeded? Why do we keep looking elsewhere for answers? Why do you put so much stock into tests?]
To the contrary, I found them uninterested in the status quo, eager to invest in new approaches, and concerned to identify objectives that are not being met. A current major concern, and the focus of the meeting I attended, is developing curricula that will foster innovative thinking in students, an attribute the country’s leaders see as critical to 21st-century success, and one, by the way, that international assessments… [We should not even concern with assessments, especially international ones.]
Finland 115 5,426,236 people
Singapore 116 5,412,036 “
New York City 8,175,133
Los Angeles 3,857,799
This will give you some idea of the small size of these two nations. Their combined populations are just bigger than New York City’s population and less than NYC and LA combined. They are almost totally homogeneous populations, too. Finland does have a small percentage of Swedes there though. So there is not much a language/culture barrier.
According to my dictionary– Innovation: to make changes by introducing something new. Innovation: a new idea.
This does not say that the change is better than the old way. It does not even say that the change was good. It could be worse.
One of many myths that this country espouses– New means improved. They always say new and improved together, as if the former caused the latter. They’ll say it is new, implying improved.
So why do we need to innovate? Answer—we don’t.
What works for a small homogeneous country will not work for a large multi-lingual country. So why do we look to these two countries? Why do we look elsewhere at all? By the way Finland does not use computers in their K-12 classrooms. We are rather unique in the world. I do not mean that we are necessarily better, just different.
What’s wrong with American education? It is all of this ‘innovation’, experimentation and changing the goals of education, of what a high school is supposed to do.
When you change something that worked oft times it will not work. When you change the design of something it may not work. When you use a system in ways that was not designed for you run the risk of the system not working at all.