on catching up or leading the way …

The Head of the Middle School campus recently shared a fantastic book called Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization by Yong Zhao.  In his preface, Zhao explains that he started off writing a book about education in China and ended up writing a book about how what China wants in its educational system is what America is so eagerly looking to throw away. 

Things that spoke to me:

  • The cost of standardized testing: High scores, but low ability.
  • American education is an imperfect system that others seek to emulate.  It isn’t that American education does a particularly good job of fostering creativity, yet it doesn’t quash it as much as the educational systems of most other nations.
  • “Education always performs two functions–to select and to educate.” (Zhao, p. 74) We obviously excel at the task of sorting, but how well are we doing with “educating?”
  • That which is tested is valued.
  • “We should acknowledge that technology is not only a tool for the teacher to use to raise test scores, but also an important tool for students to develop digital competencies, to be creative in art and music, to develop social skills in virtual worlds, and to stay engaged with school.” (Zhao, p. 196)

Context:

Quotes Quoted:

  • “The philosophy in the classroom of this generation is the philosophy of government in the next.”~~Abraham Lincoln
  • “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”–Albert Einstein 

Thoughts:

  • The “middle class” may no longer refer to the “American middle class.” Corporations can be profitable whether they are selling their products to the “middle class” in India, China, France, Japan, Australia, or Mexico.  Economically, a middle class in America may not matter as much as it has in the past.  There will still be “good middle class, upper middle class, and upper class” lives to be lead, but the days when that life was enjoyed by unionized automobile workers is probably passed.  Parents of our kids intuitively know that the key to giving their kids a viable future is in getting their kids into the “creative class, ” thus the pressure on the resume building student. 
  • “You can’t understand Google,” vice president Marissa Mayer says, “unless you know that both Larry and Sergey were Montessori kids.” She’s referring to schools based on the educational philosophy of Maria Montessori, an Italian physician born in 1870 who believed that children should be allowed the freedom to pursue their interests. “In a Montessori school, you go paint because you have something to express or you just want to do it that afternoon, not because the teacher said so,” she says. “This is baked into how Larry and Sergey approach problems. They’re always asking, why should it be like that? It’s the way their brains were programmed early on.” … I’ve never been a fan of the free periods that we give kids, yet, perhaps they are precisely the thing that our school is doing right.  Rather than tossing those kids out of the Tech Center for playing games, we should be setting aside a set of computers for them to use as their digital sandbox.  Better still, we should probably facilitate things for them to be able to hang out in the Computer Services office with the tech guys …
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