Will We Prepare ALL Kids for the Innovation Era?

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.

2 thoughts on “Will We Prepare ALL Kids for the Innovation Era?

  1. As an emerging secondary math teacher, I hear, read, and constantly discuss about how mathematics should be taught and what kind of classroom norms we should aim to promote. I don’t disagree with any of the big ideals; especially those that come from students’ using critical thinking skills to support or even critique an argument. What overwhelms me is the thinking behind HOW these ideals can be instilled and developed in schools. It further becomes complicated when you take the other critical factors such as the racial and socio-economic backgrounds of students.
    I am by no means wanting to give up on implementing these ideals. As difficult as the process will be, I sincerely believe it is possible and worth the long fight to get there.
    Great read by the way!


    1. Thank you Ricardo, for the thoughtful comment.
      The HOW that you refer to weighs on me a great deal. The complications of other factors is a challenge as well.
      For these reasons I have just begun a PhD program with the goal of working on exactly the concerns you express. I hope to be back to adding to the blog soon, as I’m beginning to find my way into new routines. I will do my best to write more about what is known, and what still needs to be learned regarding how to do this work within the constraints many teachers are faced with. I hope you will return to read more!


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