Whenever I hear the term “college ready,” memories of an awful AP class I took in high school come to mind. The teacher of the class, seemingly determined to assign as much reading and as many essays, quizzes, tests, and projects as she could without receiving parent complaints, made our academic lives miserable all in the name of making us “college ready.”
“If you think the workload I assign is difficult, just wait until you get to college,” she used to say. “You’ll all thank me for preparing you so well!”
She was wrong. The best professors I had in college didn’t randomly assign piles of busy work simply because they weren’t creative enough to come up with dynamic ways to teach new material. Instead, they engaged us by leading thoughtful discussions, assigning us carefully selected and interesting articles and passages rather than quizzing us on irrelevant sections of a textbook, and by inspiring us to think for ourselves and form our own opinions about the material at hand. From my experience, all that particular high school teacher did by making me “college ready” was make me dislike the subject she taught more fervently than ever.
So when I read Thomas L. Friedman’s op-ed “Need a Job? Invent It” in the New York Times last week, his argument about the need to create innovators rather than “college ready” students really resonated with me. In the article, Friedman explores the ideas behind Harvard education specialist Tony Wagner’s new book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. Among these ideas is the argument that K-12 and college tracks are simply not preparing their students for life in the business world.
“There is increasingly no such thing as a high-wage, middle-skilled job — the thing that sustained the middle class in the last generation,” Friedman writes. “Now there is only a high-wage, high-skilled job.” Thus, the goal of education, according to Wagner, should not be to prepare students for testing and academia, but help them develop skills that will allow them innovate and add value to the marketplace. “Because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know,” Wagner told Friedman. ”The capacity to innovate…and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge.”
Wagner calls for serious education reform, arguing that with Google at digital natives’ fingertips, students today need not memorize facts for tests but should rather be able to think critically and create their own opportunities, focusing on “play, passion, and purpose.” He makes a plea to teachers and administrators to create “Accountability 2.0,” as he calls it, and have students create digital portfolios that demonstrate mastery of skills and content throughout their school careers rather than teach to a test.
Check out the Creating Innovators movement on their website, where you can find the book, supplementary videos and an event calendar surrounding the movement.
Do you agree with Friedman and Wagner? What was your academic experience, and do you feel it prepared you for the “real world”? Sound off in the comments below, or with us via Twitter to @Technapex or @ce_doyle.