Monday, March 25, 2013
World Class Education: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students
On three occasions in recent months I have had the pleasure to see Dr. Yong Zhao speak about creativity and education. Dr. Zhao is a professor at The University of Oregon and director of Zhao Learning and ObaWorld Global Education. His new book is World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students. Zhao was a great speaker, filling his presentations with self-deprecating humor, gentle teasing, and incredible research on creativity and learning. He is also delightfully charismatic. If you have a chance to see him speak, do so.
Here are my many take-ways:
1. We need to first consider what the purpose of an education is. Until we can decide on that, we will be hard-pressed to change anything. Furthermore, comparing ourselves to other countries with different purposes is to compare apples and oranges. As Dr. Zhao put it…We are racing to the top of what? We have a Common Core for what?
2. We also need to define success. By virtue of having a college-age son, he now defines educational success as that which keeps you from living in your parents’ basement. To put it more academically, that means you know how to do something that others wish to pay you for, you’re psychologically independent, and you are socialized and nice enough to become part of a community. Sure sounds different than a test score!
3. There are certain “known knowns” – Human nature is diverse, curious and creative. The economy has changed. Information is everywhere. The world is more globalized than ever.
4. Schools as we know them are like sausage makers…we do our best to take diverse and disparate inputs and grind them down into a standardized product. We take individual differences, multiple intelligences, cultural diversity, curiosity, passion, and creativity and squeeze them through schooling to spit out employable people. We are in essence, in the business of channeling and narrowing creativity. I am sure this sounds cynical or depressing, but seriously consider how much room we allow for individualization and celebration of unique talents, interests and skills. To what degree are our evaluations focused on individuality? Do we celebrate rebelliousness?
5. At the age of 5 most kids measure in the genius levels for creativity through tests of divergent thinking. Then we give them some formal education and these levels plummet. They recover after people retire.
6. The total value of manufactured goods produced in the US has been increasing while the number of manufacturing jobs has been decreasing.
7. We are in the midst of a re-setting of the economy, not a recession. We are dealing with a hollowing out of the middle class, but have growth at the ends – high income and low income jobs are growing, while middle class jobs are being lost.
8. So who will be a new middle class? The Creative class – Entrepreneurs – Business entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, Intrepreneurs, and Policy entrepreneurs.
9. Somebody at Google or Apple apparently said, “If you want to be managed you are not employable.” We are entering an economy demanding creativity, flexibility and fast learning. Row with us or get off the boat.
10. Entrepreneurs are those with creative solutions and abilities to see them through to fruition.
11. Good entrepreneurs are confident, passionate, have global competency, have friends, are creative, unique, risk-taking, empathetic and are alert to opportunity.
12. Schools should come with warning labels – sausage making has side-effects! Great test scores do not equal creativity. Consider the following…
a. China was #1 on all three areas of the most recent PISA test
b. 60 US independent schools took the test also
c. Arne Duncan found the results appalling. Obama called it our Sputnik moment.
d. These test results also gave rise to a book, Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems.
e. But….if George Washington had used an existing international model he would have never envisioned America!
f. The Chinese actually are not happy about these results….see below.
13. Historically, the US is not getting worse based on achievement test scores – it has always been bad…since the 1950s. Why? American kids are confident and enjoy school but don’t test well, whereas Asian kids lack confidence, don’t enjoy school, test better than anyone else – and are not creative. As one Chinese Premier apparently said, the next Steve Jobs will not be Chinese.
14. There is a direct negative correlation between math scores and entrepreneurialism. The greater our focus on math and science (and their test scores), the more we are sacrificing confidence and talent – the key elements of entrepreneurialism.
15. The new paradigm in education must be a new sausage maker – one that enhances human capacity rather than diminishing it, as our current system does. Though it is to be pointed out, US schools clearly are not as successful as sausage-making as we continue to turn out entrepreneurs and inventors at far greater rates than the rest of the world.
16. In other words, we are not as effective at killing creativity as other countries.
17. We have local control and that allows for variety, creativity, some individualization and ultimately a variety of students with wide ranging talents. The Common Core and a growing obsession with testing is only going to stifle what we do well.
18. 58% of Apple’s revenues go to US-based employees even though the vast majority of their employees are in China. The creative class is in the US.
19. Pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) is the wrong way to go, particularly if it is at the expense of creativity and questioning.
20. The best education trains you to ask questions.
21. This new Age of Abundance has finally made the right side of the brain useful. In prior times, survival was key, therefore a limited numbers of skills. But creativity is needed now.
22. We must shift from training future employees to training future entrepreneurs.
23. I really need to read a few more books, The Rise of the Creative Class, The Innovator’s Classroom and The Disruptive Classroom, and Loren Katz’s The Race Between Education and Technology.
24. Dyslexia is not a problem, it is just different brain wiring yielding different visual perception and a great ability to be creative, artistic and to see patterns.
25. The quicker you give kids answers the more you kill curiosity.
26. Schools and grades discourage risk-taking.
27. US Schools are good because we are local, decentralized and open. We are forgiving, gender neutral, separated from church and state and publically funded.
Throw any of these ideas into conversation with teachers, administrators, human resources professionals, or parents and I assure you, you will start a conversation. I found his points validating, inspiring and provocative. If you do too, make it a point to grab Dr. Zhao’s book and find a place to see him speak.