The Council on Foreign Relations has published a provocative article, “Education Reform and U.S. Competitiveness,” as part of its Renewing America initiative. The piece is an “Expert Roundup,” featuring the reform recommendations of four thought leaders: Craig R. Barrett, former CEO and chairman of Intel Corporation, and one of the appointed leaders of Change the Equation, President Obama’s STEM initiative; author Steven Brill; Diane Ravitch, former U.S. assistant secretary of education, and research professor of education at NYU; and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
Each contributor’s perspective is worth exploring, but Diane Ravitch’s caught my attention because it accords so well with Lincoln Center Institute’s thinking on education policy change.
Throughout our history, our nation’s competitive edge has always relied on ingenuity, says Ravitch. But, she argues, the current, single-minded emphasis on testing in American schools fails to promote the skills that will sustain the country’s competitiveness: imagination, creativity, and innovation.
Ravitch, a scholar and former government official with decades of education experience, goes on to evoke LCI’s method of imaginative learning, noting, “Our schools promote creativity and innovation when teachers…enable students to experiment, create, and question….Creative thinking grows from asking questions and exploring, not guessing the right answer.”
I couldn’t agree more—and I’m reminded yet again of the question that’s been on my mind for quite some time: Must U.S. education reform be an either/or situation? Imagination, creativity, and innovation can certainly support the content knowledge that students are tested on, and vice versa.
The chorus of voices calling for imaginative learning or similar methods seems to be growing constantly, which is wonderful; many advocates, though, continue to leave standards out of the equation in their discourse. And the issue of how to bring the two together is really the one around which the most work remains to be done. Indeed, we’ve still got to demonstrate to decision makers—and this is my highest priority today—that imagination and accountability may go hand in hand, rather than sword to sword.
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