Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Most Likely to Succeed: A Review




Despite major shifts  in society, the economy, and technology, changes in education have been slow (even glacial) in coming.  Whether we are looking at education for children, teenagers, or adults, we see systems  grounded in the 19th or early 20th centuries that seem impervious to adaptation.

In Most Likely to Succeed:  Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era, authors Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith draw on their backgrounds  in education (Wagner) and innovation (Dintersmith) as well as their experience as parents to challenge the status quo in education.

Here are their primary arguments:

• Rapid advances in innovation are eliminating structured routine jobs from our economy, leaving millions of young Americans at risk.
• The critical skills young adults need in the twenty-first century for careers in the world of innovation, and for responsible citizenship, are the very skills the school years eviscerate.
• The education policies our country is pursuing to “fix” schools only serve to harm students and disillusion teachers.
• While education credentials were historically aligned with competencies that mattered, they have become prohibitively expensive, emotionally damaging, and disconnected from anything essential.
 • Unless we completely reimagine school, the growing divide between the haves and have-nots will threaten to rip civil society apart.
 • We have an urgent obligation to speak out, since we know what our education system needs to do to give every student a fighting chance in life.

Through interviews, observation, , and statistical review, the authors explain how we got into this situation, cite examples of innovations that effectively address these concerns, and suggest reforms that will benefit  learners, and in turn, our society.

Although reading the entire book helps the reader understand how we got into the situation  and how to get out of it, Chapter Seven summarizes their approach.  At every level of education, students need to learn and be evaluated on the four C’s: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creative problem-solving.  These are the skills that drive 21st century work, economic growth, and societal health.

My first exposure to Tony Wagner was through his book Creating Innovators.  In that book, he emphasized the importance of mentors, traditional approaches to education, and self-directed learning to empower creative young adults.  With his co-author in this book he takes us deeper into  the educational quagmire we find ourselves in and identifies the pathway out.

 (This topic is also addressed in an upcoming documentary film by the same title.)

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