“Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” – John W. Gardner
Our competitive advantage of innovation is at risk because of America’s poor system of schooling, according to research by Harvard professor Tony Wagner.
Our schools teach to fill children with knowledge instead of focusing on developing innovation skills, learning to love one another and instilling the motivation to succeed.
To quote Wagner: “Today knowledge is constantly changing, growing exponentially… Today knowledge is free. It’s like air, it’s like water. It’s become a commodity… There’s no competitive advantage today in knowing more than the person next to you. The world doesn’t care what you know. What the world cares about is what you can do with what you know.”
Avoiding risk is normal but: “We penalize mistakes,” says Wagner. “The whole challenge in schooling is to figure out what the teacher wants. It’s a compliance-driven, risk-averse culture.” Innovation, on the other hand, is grounded in taking risks and learning via trial and error.
Educators should take a note from design firm IDEO with its mantra of “Fail early, fail often,” says Wagner. At Stanford’s Institute of Design, he says they put forth ideas like, “We’re thinking F is the new A.” Without failure, there is no success.
Henry Ford failed and went broke
five times before he succeeded.
Young innovators are intrinsically motivated, he says. They aren’t interested in grades and petty reward systems. Parents and teachers can encourage innovative thinking by nurturing the curiosity and inquisitiveness of young people, Wagner says.
And this leads me to ask, “Why is suicide the second leading cause of death for college age students?” Why is failure, which can lead to such a tragic consequence, even noted or recorded? Why do we allow schools to punish scholars with failure and then compound the loss of self-esteem and lower achievement recognition by mathematically averaging success with failing grades?
There are specific causes for children, of all ages, becoming self-destructive. And one major cause is our inability to recognize the very dangerous commodity that failure can become when placed in the wrong or inexperienced hands. The power to succeed belongs in the hands of those whose future depends upon it. And it is an immense power.
There is tremendous value in failure, if it is placed it in a proper and positive perspective. Some great inventors and innovators survived antiquated, heartless and mindless institutional attempts at harassing and frequently annihilating anyone shy of perfection. But others, by the millions, have not survived. And the loss of such potential cannot even be estimated.
If we were to eliminate just one dozen of our most successful inventors, our societies would be set back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Yes, you would be in the dark, with none of the electronic devices to help you stay informed and pass the time. And you probably would not even exist.
Punitive and degrading assessment policies that penalize children so harshly, effectively crippling them, in my not-so-humble opinion, constitutes the equivalent of what can be equated to mass murder. These institutions of learning lack the wisdom and compassion and understanding to be permitted direct contact with our fragile and deeply loved children, our future innovators and leaders.
At our school, we have eliminated the antiquated nonsense of subjective grades and reports cards (along with dreaded homework, which according to research, is the number one cause of failure in secondary grades). With a required mastery level of 90%, no one receives a grade below an A. Students simply work on an instructional objective until this level is achieved and without time constraints.
As a result, failure is placed into a more positive perspective. It is actually valued. And, in fact, can be viewed philosophically, as the finest teacher available. Especially if it is seen within the context of the results of experimentation or research or exploratory activity.
Failure should not be wielded like a weapon to extrinsically motivate children to be successful. Accomplishment, in and of itself, is highly motivating. And, importantly, it is positive re-enforcement. Negatives are simply not needed – and they can become highly destructive.
Jack London received six hundred rejection slips
before he sold his first story.
Where would we be if Thomas Edison did not value the failure he encountered and knew was so essential for success? Edison held a world record of 1093 patents for inventions such as the phonograph, motion picture camera and last, but not least, the light bulb and laid the foundation for the modern electric age.
As an inventor, Edison made over 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
Professor Tony Wagner says that parents of innovators encourage their children to play in more exploratory ways with “Fewer toys, more toys without batteries, more unstructured time in their day”.
Wagner concludes, “The culture of schooling, as we all know it, is radically at odds with the culture of learning that produces innovators.”
Wagner is not suggesting we change a few processes and update a few manuals. He says, “The system has become obsolete. It needs reinventing, not reforming.”
I agree. Our children carry with them, in their pocket, something that connects them to the world wide web. They do not need to know everything. The can easily access information before you even get the opportunity to finish asking the question.
We need to instill a true passion for living and for learning. Let us begin by learning and teaching our children to love one another and, in the process, rediscover the joy we misplaced but existed since birth.
We are planning activities for FRIDAY, October 14, 2011. Our destination is: The PALACE OF WAX & RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT, 601 East Safari Parkway, Grand Prairie (I-30 & Belt Line Road- 7 minutes East of Six Flags, (972-263-2391)
We will depart at 9:00 a.m. to arrive at 10:00 a.m. We will first enjoy a brief visit to the video arcade, gift shop, fantastic photos, and wax hands (ask for the special price for our group), then have an early lunch at 11:00 a.m. to avoid other large (many calories) groups. Following lunch we will enjoy self-guided tours of the Palace of Wax and Ripley’s Believe It or Not, which, believe it or not, should last approximately two hours.
This is a history, science, literature and art museum where learning becomes a unique experience. The fear section can be avoided by the young, faint of heart or just plain scared (like Dr. A, who has been known to scream and cry and embarrass us). The not-so-brave may exit to the gift shop (that’s a scary place) and show Dr. A how to escape a frightful future and avoid touring the rest of the exhibit.
FINANCIAL Fee: $8.00 (includes TAX & a little money for gas). This discounted price is a group combination ticket–the regular price is $15.95. It does NOT include Mirror Maze. Please pay Dr. A.
Uniform pants with a belt (required to participate) & red monogrammed and tucked in school shirt are required. Jackets should be NAVY blue.
• Family, neighbors and friends are always invited to enjoy Friday with us.
• Students MAY WEAR COSTUMES on Friday
Drop-off will be at the School at 8:30 a.m. Pick-up will be at the Anderson School at 3:15 p.m. Please be patient – traffic conditions, goofing off or a reluctance to ask for directions (a male thing) may delay us. Dr. Anderson may be reached on his cell telephone – EMERGENCY. If he does not answer, keep calling! He’s old, retired (twice) & busy or pretending to be busy.
Oct. 25 Fossilmania in Glenrose
Nov. 25-29 Thanksgiving/Fall Break
Dec. 5-6 Texas Assn. for Gifted & Talented Conf. (No school) Dec. 20 Last Day of Fall Semester
Dec. 23 – Jan. 7 Winter Break Holidays