Thoughts on the Back Cover of Tony Wagner’s “The Global Achievement Gap” by Rick Davidson

I have just received a book that the SAU purchased in the hopes, I imagine, of contributing to my evolution as an effective educator. I have not read the book yet but the blurb on the back cover was enough to get my intellectual juices flowing. The book is called “The Global Achievement Gap” by Tony Wagner. On one level, I ordered this book in the hopes that it might help me understand why we, in the American School System, justify so much testing and standardization. Instead, Mr. Wagner appears to be yet another proponent of what is becoming recognized as a new movement in 21st Century education. Everything I have absorbed from a myriad of books, blogs, magazine articles, TV shows, interviews, and keynote speakers indicates that tomorrow’s survival skills are not to be found in nineteenth century educational practices. Even in those days, voices such as John Dewey encouraged project based learning that encouraged students to be active researchers, not receptacles of the teacher’s assumed knowledge and wisdom. “Dewey was a relentless campaigner for reform of education, pointing out that the authoritarian strict, pre-ordained knowledge approach of modern traditional education was too concerned with delivering knowledge, and not enough with understanding students’ actual experiences.” (Neil, J. (2005) “John Dewey, the Modern Father of Experiential Education” )

So I had to ask myself, am I truly providing my students with Tony Wagner’s Seven Survival Skills for Teens Today? Forgetting that my prejudice is that technology must play an important part in helping students acquire these skills, I wonder whether we are not short changing our future citizens when we don’t pay attention to what is a recurrent message from the experts. Education should not be a matter of merely accumulating knowledge. We can find the answer to just about everything on a computer or, for that matter, on an iPhone. Higher order thinking skills are essential to success in our incredibly fast changing world. Whether we like or approve of this future is irrelevant. It is here and we and our students need to know how to survive and thrive in it. The other reoccurring theme that I hear is that we, as teachers, have to model these skills in order to be effective educators.

Seven Survival Skills for Teens Today:

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving
Collaboration across Networks and Leading by Influence
Agility and Adaptability
Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
Effective Oral and Written Communication
Accessing and Analyzing Information
Curiosity and Imagination

As Albert Einstein said:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress and giving birth to evolution.”

Einstein would love google. Are we listening?

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