Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Lots of public hand-wringing over the recent news that China kicks the world’s ass in 10th grade education test scores and that US scores were only mediocre in science and reading and pretty lousy in math.

Well, I guess.

I’ll bet, though, if you measured American 15 year-olds against the rest of the world on how much contemporary culture they’re aware of and how savvy they are when it comes to communicating with each other about each other’s emotional life dramas, this country would come out on top.

And I’m not entirely convinced that’s such an awful state of affairs.

I mean, really, what are the skills and abilities that will make a person successful in the 21st century and beyond?

Much is made about the importance of the so-called “STEM” disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), and sure, if these kids today can’t add or subtract or figure out how to turn on their cell phones, then the future of our country is fucked. But is it really such a crisis in education if kids are learning other, so-called “softer” skills? Is it really a catastrophe if Junior and Junior Miss do less well in the language of numbers and better in the language of love?

It’s hard for me to believe that Chinese youngsters are learning more than their counterparts around the globe. Rather, I think they’re just learning different stuff. Granted, it may be stuff that allows for faster technological advancement, but I’m not at all certain this is what humanity needs to carry on into the future.

Which students would score highest when it came to their ability to wrangle about issues of social justice and compassion? Whose average tally would prevail in a test dealing with moral ambiguity?

And maybe all of this is beside the point. Maybe what students today really need to know is how to build a fire, forage for food, and, of course, how to fix their bicycles.


Blogger Andre said...

This was the one...

I'd been thinking about learning lately and wondered how you really measure that potential. I was looking at the 0-kindergarten age though. There are all of theses expectations on kids before they even make it to school. In one instance there is a 4 year old I know who can beat me at chess but...he's a little fond of the convenience of a diaper still. Walking, talking, sharing, washing hands, brushing teeth, learning letters...I feel over whelmed just thinking about all the things tots have to learn and on top of that some parents think they need to be chess masters.

10:39 PM  

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