Saturday, September 18, 2010

A New Space Ship

In the introduction to The Global Achievement Gap, Tony Wagner makes the case that, despite all the bad press, American schools aren't failing.
In today's highly competitive global "knowledge economy," all students need new skills for college, careers, and citizenship. The failure to give all students these new skills leaves today's youth--and our country--at an alarming competitive disadvantage. Schools haven't changed; the world has. And so our schools are not failing. Rather, they are obsolete--even the ones that score the best on standardized tests. This is a very different problem requiring an altogether different solution. (2008, p. xxi)

As the district I work for has been embarking on an initiative to redefine education for the 21st century, I've been reflecting on this passage quite a bit.

Understandably, teachers are nervous and feeling defensive. It is easy to take a need for change and perceive it as criticism of all the good, hard work being done right now.

I keep circling back to Kennedy's challenge of putting an American on the moon within ten years. The series of Apollo missions that eventually lead to Apollo 11's success were an amazing triumph. But should the current president challenge the nation to put an American on Mars within ten years, would that suddenly invalidate the Apollo missions, suddenly give us cause to see that hard work as a failure? Of course not.

The Apollo missions got us to where we needed to go; changing the destination doesn't make Apollo 11 a failure, but it does mean we need a new space ship.

The world has changed. Our students need a new space ship to get them there. The real challenge is that we are currently flying around in obsolete Apollo 11s hoping to turn them into something that can survive the rest of the journey before they fall apart around us.