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Top ten list #7: Ways U.S. education is failing to produce creatives

ten-days-sm.pngToday’s list discusses how U.S. education is failing to create students that will succeed in creative, knowledge- and innovation-based economies. Not surprisingly, No Child Left Behind heads-off this list as failure #1:

  1. No Child Left Behind. NCLB is producing exactly the wrong products for the 21st Century, but is right on for the 1850’s through 1950. NCLB’s fractured memorization model opposes the creative, synthetic thinking required for new work and effective citizenship.
  2. Schools are merging with prisons. As soon as students enter schools, they lose many of their fundamental rights, including the right to free speech. Students who do not wish to conform to prison-like, automaton production must develop individual creativity to survive… often at a price.
  3. Inadequate teacher preparation, recruitment and retention. The U.S. public schools have always been lemmings, but are now failing to produce teachers who are savvy to the contemporary trends their students must learn and respond to in times of accelerating change. The other half of the picture is teacher-modeled creativity, something the public schools have never seriously attempted.
  4. Insufficient adoption of technology. The squeeze is on from both ends: Student-purchased technology is usually derided, suppressed, and sometimes confiscated. These tools are part of the technology spectrum kids know they will have to master. On the other end, technology in the schools is dated, the Internet is firewalled, and there isn’t enough equipment to go around.
  5. Focusing on information retention as opposed to new knowledge production. Disk-drive learning is for computers. Knowledge production and innovation are for humans. The first requires fast recall and low error rates from dumb systems; the second, driven by intelligent people, builds the economy and keeps America competitive.
  6. Innovation is eschewed. Most U.S. teachers think innovation is something that requires them to suffer the discomforts and pains of adaptation. They don’t accept change as a necessary function of expanding national competitiveness. Many U.S. teachers might be more comfortable in industrial world economies and societies represented by China and South Korea, or 1950’s America.
  7. Continuous reorganization of school leadership and priorities, particularly in urban schools. Serious questions can be raised whether schools are the organizations required to cope with semi-permanent underclasses, violent youth, incompetent, irresponsible parenting and negative adult role models. What institutional substitutions would you make for the schools?
  8. National education priorities are built on an idealized past, not on emergent and designed futures. Blends of applied imagination, creativity, and innovation are required to visualize preferred futures, to render them proximal and grounded, and to forge them into empirical realities. On the other hand, it is quite possible that Secretary Spellings and other highly placed education “leaders” have never had an original thought in their entire lives.
  9. Social class and cultural problems in schools and communities suggest that the schools live in a Norman Rockwell past. Bright kids capable of novel thought and new culture creation have never fit into the industrially modeled American schools, and lower-middle class teachers have little respect for working- and poverty-class art, music, and culture. It appears that the schools are populated by timid, unimaginative, lower-middle class professional placeholders who crave convention (spelling bees, car washes, exceptional sports performances) over invention.
  10. Failing to invest resources in education, both financially and socially. Education is formal, informal, and non-formal in structure and function. It is possible that formal education will be recognized as the least powerful of this trio, in part because it is so dated, and in part because it occurs in such a small percentage of life compared with the other two types. Perhaps new funding algorithms and decisions must follow this ratio.

Reason interviews Vernor Vinge

Reason Magazine published a rather interesting interview with Vernor Vinge, touching on issues that interest libertarians. In regard to government control, or efforts to slow the Technological Singularity, he states:

There is a national interest, and not just in America, in providing the illusion of freedom for the millions of people who need to be happy and creative to make the economy go. Those people are more diverse and distributed and resourceful and even coordinated than any government.

That’s a power we already have in free markets. Computer networks, supporting data and social networks, give this trend an enormous boost. In the end that illusion of freedom may have to be more like the real thing than any society has ever achieved in the past, something that could satisfy a new kind of populism, a populism powered by deep knowledge, self-interest so broad as to reasonably be called tolerance, and an automatic, preternatural vigilance.

Short of physical disasters or failures in technology, Vinge believes the Singularity is inevitable. Barry Mahfood argues that it’s happening gradually…

Politics and present problems of education in Mexico

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(English version)

I will give a talk about Teaching and leading in the 21st Century: A New Paradigm of knowledge production at FLACSO Mexico on March 12:

The convergence of globalization, emergence of the knowledge society and accelerating change contribute to what the presenter terms a New Paradigm of knowledge production in education. The New Paradigm reflects the emerging shifts in thought, beliefs, priorities and practice in regard to all levels of education in global societies. These new patterns of thought and belief are forming to harness and manage the chaos, indeterminacy, and complex relationships of the postmodern.

Drawing from the author’s original research, the three phenomena driving the New Paradigm are explored together as a whole, particularly as it pertains to new pedagogies and educational leadership. Emphasis is placed on the examination of the future of education in the New Paradigm. By putting the pieces of the New Paradigm together through the forecasting of futures for primary through tertiary education, implications, consequences and actions for educators and policy leaders are identified.

U.S. Senator: Ban Wikipedia from schools

Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), the lawmaker behind the pork-barrel Bridge to Nowhere and an infamous revelation that the Internet is constructed of a series of tubes is at it again. This time, he wants to ban Wikipedia at schools that receive federal funding. From Computerworld:

    Early in January, Stevens introduced Senate bill 49, which among other things, would require that any school or library that gets federal Internet subsidies would have to block access to interactive Web sites, including social networking sites, and possibly blogs as well. It appears that the definition of those sites is so vague that it could include sites such as Wikipedia, according to commentators.

Remember, this is from the senator, who, on the floor, said:

    Ten movies streaming across that, that Internet, and what happens to your own personal Internet? I just the other day got… an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday, I got it yesterday. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially. […] They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes. And if you don’t understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material It seems to me that communications and new media literacy needs to be taught in the halls of Congress as well as in our schools.

It seems the senator is concerned all the knowledge distributed through Wikipedia would dangerously tangle the tubes of the Internet. What do you think?

Left behind (in the Dark Ages)

I’ve refrained from commenting on politics up to now, but this is too absurd to be ignored any longer.

According to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility:

Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

As we approach the end of 2006, and continue our march through the 21st Century, some of us are left behind — evidently in the Dark Ages. Science and reason continue to be downplayed and minimized through fanciful thinking by the Bush administration. This level of leadership intelligence is also displayed by my cat. Mind you he’s pretty dumb. In fact, he’s so dumb that he thinks that if he can’t see you, you can’t see him. Whenever he wants to hide from something, he only hides his head. The Bush administration likewise hides its head under the ground (apparently ignoring the surrounding geological evidence as it does so), and believes it can transcend reality through ignorance.

As we move into 2007, I implore Mr. Bush to:

Inside Higher Ed: Time for US to wake up

Inside Higher Ed has an article on the decrease of political and financial support for American education relative to global competitors. Citing research by John A. Douglass at UC Berkeley, the article states:

Douglass says that other nations are using government policy to match or exceed U.S. participation rates and to more fully integrate higher education into national economic and social policy. “They have many problems of their own,” according to Douglass, “but it is the political will and trajectory of their efforts that offers a sharp contrast to the U.S.” He notes that for the first time since the late 1800s, America no longer has the world’s highest rate of young students going on to a postsecondary institution.

Furthermore, China and other nations are building hundreds of new schools, each aiming to become the next Harvard…