Archive - Aug 8, 2013


Summer School response

Friend Kurt Reynolds, a teacher in Thief River Falls, responds to last week's column on the good old days when we kids were left to do what we wanted with our summers on the farm. Kurt writes a blog about teaching and education, and whatever else strikes his fancy (sort of like this blog). As you can sense from this response and Kurt's blog, he is passionately interested in improving the classroom experience for his students as well as exploring all of the philosophical questions which come up when one discusses educational reform. Here's Reynolds:

I really enjoyed your summer vacation column today.  And what a childhood you had!  How fortunate.  I am reading a book called World Class Learners by Yong Zhao. He looks at all the reform efforts designed to get us caught up with China or India or Finland with their high stakes test scores.  But what no one ever talks about - when it comes to China anyway––is that they never produce any real breakthroughs or entrepreneurs.  

 He argues that China cranks out plenty of world class professionals who are excellent at math and science but don't adapt or think critically very well.  To prove this, he examines how now China is trying to invoke more creativity lessons into their curriculum (I read once in a piece on the importance of creativity in education that a Chinese official commented - after touring a US school that was focused on the basics and high stakes testing - "This is ironic.  You are heading back to our old way of teaching while we are rushing to your old way of teaching.").  

 Zhao even references an article about what would have happened if Steve Jobs would have been born in China.  Very interesting.  Zhao talks about what America has done so well for the past 100 years is encourage creative thinking and exploration (just like you were doing on all of those summers when you were young when you were tinkering and exploring and ripping stuff apart).  But, unfortunately, that's being discouraged for kill and drill test prep curriculum (perhaps, that's one reason you've noted that home school kids are so much more intellectually eager and comfortable around adults than public school kids are).


Unfortunately, a lot of that exploration and creativity must come outside of school now.  But even that exploration is being intruded upon by parents who think their strapping five years olds are destined to play hockey for UND or the Gophers.  Or we're so obsessed with having our kids in 25 different activities that we micromanage their time (we have a friend who picks her daughter up from middle school with a lunch for her as she ushers her from school to gymnastics because she simply doesn't have time to eat)!  Where's the time to tinker and explore and create?


I'm scared that our obsession with test scores and our move toward keeping our kids hyper busy and competitive - the opposite of that is the summers of your youth (and mine was very similar to yours too) - will either squeeze out any real innovators or mavericks (in the book "The Millionaire Mindset," the author notes that the majority of deca-millionaires had GPAs between 2.75-2.9) or turn our kids into rule followers with rudimentary skills.


And me? I can't even figure out how to get all of the letters in a blog post the same size.