Education And Innovation

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On my flight back to the US yesterday, I was reading the Wall Street Journal Europe and came across an editorial piece by Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York City.  In the editorial, Mayor Bloomberg takes the current education “industry” (if you could really call it that) to task …

education is key to any countries ability to innovate

“For much of the 20th century, the education level of America's work force was second-to-none. But others have caught up, and even moved past us. Now, unless we take bold action, we risk losing our competitive edge. The problem is not that AmericaU.S. auto industry in the 1970s — stuck in a flabby, inefficient, outdated production model driven by the needs of employees rather than consumers.” doesn't spend enough money on education — we spend enormous amounts, far more than any other nation. But we're not getting a sufficient return on our investment. The fact is, our education system looks a lot like the U.S. auto industry in the 1970s — stuck in a flabby, inefficient, outdated production model driven by the needs of employees rather than consumers.”

Albeit, the focus of his rant is aimed towards the US education system, I would argue that other countries are also at risk.  He goes on to say ….

“We can continue to invest enormous sums of money in this failing system — and remain like Detroit in the 1970s, slipping further and further behind our international competitors. Or, we can put our famous American ingenuity to work and build a better system — and become like Silicon Valley today, which is leading the world in innovation and technology.”

Now he is hitting the mark. For those of you who are regular listeners of my podcast, you know that this is one of my hot buttons.  

What is wrong with the current education system?

  1. The current education system is stuck in “old think” about what will make the student successful.  Namely, focus on left-brained (logic, rote memorization, etc.) teaching methods and careers.  What was once thought of as leading jobs (lawyers, engineering, accountants, doctors) are all being off-shored.
  2. They grind out any form of natural student creativity by training the students to repeat back the answer the teacher wants to hear.  The result is that we teach our students to act like robots under the control of the teacher.
  3. We focus on the basics such as reading, writing and math but ignore the fact that the emerging need is to train our students to win in the creative economy.

The education system needs to wake-up and realize that it’s no longer about test scores and competing for local tax dollars.  It’s about training students to win in the global economy.  Continuing to focus our teaching methods on left-brained skills positions our students to have their future knowledge economy jobs off-shored to lower cost resources.

The future is about teaching creativity and innovation (right-brained skills) along with the basics.  If we don’t, we will find ourselves in the same position we were back in the 1970’s with the off-shoring of industrial economy jobs (e.g. steel, auto) and in the 1990’s with the growing off-shoring of knowledge worker jobs.

It’s not too late – but change is hard.

Do we have the vision and courage?

 

 Link to the full article on the WSJ (subscription needed)

Flickr photo by willgame

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