I attended a reception last evening for the Montgomery County (Maryland) Delegation sponsored by Leadership Montgomery (and specifically my class of 2000). As we were finishing up , I was in a conversation with a former school principal of a prestigious high school in our county and we happened to be discussing issues related to my Make it Remarkable Institute and the need for more right brained/artistic skills and abilities in the marketplace. My point was that, between technology and globalization, the only real value that Americans will be able to add in the near future is in the creative arena. Upon hearing that she then made the following comment, "Then I’m very concerned about the future for our kids."
Her point was that the trend in education is away from creative ability and toward regurgitation—in essence, we’re testing our kids to death. Having grown up in New York State I’m more than aware of this phenomenon. In New York, at least when I was growing up there in the 70’s, we had to take annual Regents exams. Basically, the entire year was designed for us as students to do well on this exam. We "learned" to the exam from September through February and then from March until the test in June we reviewed for the test, every day. As a student, I knew what was up. I knew that this was not about me and my education, it was all about the school and their reputation—and I hated it (which, of course, was a very 70’s thing to do).
Over the past few years I’ve been watching the trend in Maryland (and I’m sure it’s similar in other parts of our country) and it’s not a great one. Teaching toward a test is rarely a great strategy—and clearly not one that will create the kind of people our nation will need to lead us into the future. We need creatives, not regurgitators. We need radicals and idea people. We need artists and designers. We need entertainers and renaissance people. We need people who can think on their own—and who aren’t afraid to be contrarian. We need deconstructionists and architects . . . of human potential. We need independent thinkers, not cubical slaves (a la Dilbert).
And these kinds of people, who will keep America on the prosperous side (as 54% of the world’s population—Asia—wakes up and enters the 21st century), will not be created under our current "prepare to the exam" educational environment. So, my question is, "Who, out there, will start a remarkable revolution in education so that America will be able to create the kinds of students who actually love learning and have the intellectual capacity to create the economic value necessary to keep America ahead of the rest of the world?"