Most Likely to Succeed is a page turner for me. I’m having a hard time putting it down at night, even as I remind myself that my 3 and 6 year olds are likely to be up earlier than I want to be in the morning. Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith paint a picture that many educators have been yearning for; one which allows us to begin envisioning what transforming education for the 21st century really must look, feel and sound like in order to be something more than a touch up job.
I find myself putting the book down, just for a moment, to imagine the conversations that will have to occur to move mathematics education toward a place where project based learning is commonplace, and testing occurs open note and with open access to the internet. A world in which students are enabled and encouraged in a process of defining the trajectory of their learning, and in which questions are valued as much or more than answers. Classrooms in which students no longer flounder when they are not shown a definitive algorithm for solving a particular type of problem, but instead they have developed confidence in their own skills for critical thinking, communicating, collaborating and creatively solving problems unlike any they’ve ever seen before. This is what Wagner and Dintersmith call for.
And then I read Jose Vilson’s post Shut. It. Down. (On the Battles for Racial Equity and Public Education) and I know that, even as the pioneers of radically different approaches to education insure economic, racial and ethnic diversity in their model schools, scaling this will prove tremendously difficult. Achievement of the “public education blueprint” described by Vilson would represent significant progress, without even beginning to focus on the image painted in Most Likely to Succeed.
It is alarmingly easy to imagine a scenario in which genuine educational transformation gains momentum only in the most affluent communities. Educators, employers, community members and parents may cheer these success stories. But there is no success at all unless critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creative problem solving become the foundation of the educational opportunity for every student of every color and every socio-economic background in all schools.