Is public education designed to support our economy?
As a first year teacher, I copied (polite way of admitting I was a thief) the framework a colleague of mine used to teach history to high school students. This teacher spent a significant amount of time every fall making sure his students understood Alvin Toffler's wave theory before diving into timelines, textbooks, and the details of time. The theory gave students an essential framework through which to connect the dots and to ask, debate, research, and answer "why questions." I quickly found that the facts of history were largely irrelevant and unimportant to nearly all students unless I could help them recognize how explanations for human behavior in the past largely help us understand our present and our future. Toffler's work made this "click" for my students and for me.
Below is a short interview with Economist Richard Florida discussing what he calls "Unleashing the Creative Economic Revolution." I confess I haven't dug deeply into his work, but the comments in this interview seem to line up closely with the arguments of Daniel Pink, Thomas Friedman, Tony Wagner, and of course, Alvin Toffler. Because my job is to lead a school effectively so all students can be successful when they leave us, I can't help but struggle – at a very deep level – with the core misalignment between the structure of public education and the economy these scholars describe. If indeed the "creative economic revolution" is upon us, how can we justify a political arena in which the arts are being cut to increase "drill and kill instruction" to make AYP? Why aren't our legislators demanding a different structure to public education that empowers students to be creative individuals designing their own educational paths instead of placing them on an assembly line and being told to hold still?
In an effort to be more optimistic, I recommend that we educators begin preparing plans and laying groundwork for this "revolution" sooner rather than later. In MN we kept our heads in the sand as the accountibility movement gained momentum and then we cried foul when our legislators slapped a "Basic Skills Test" on the table almost two decades ago. We didn't own and lead the very enterprise in which we are the experts. Maybe this time we can be the leaders of change so it gets done right… Maybe this time, we can bring sound ideas and proposals to the table with strong arguments supporting the purpose. Maybe we can trust that common Americans understand, at a very common sense level, how misaligned the structure is with the world economy that is unfolding before us. Maybe Richard Florida's reference to a "creative revolution" can be viewed as a wonderful opportunity to better deliver on that which we are so very passionate about… teaching the leaders of tomorrow… teaching kids.
"Unleashing the Creative Economic Revolution" on big think