Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Summer Reading

One of my summer reads includes Harvard professor Tony Wagner’s Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World (Scribner, 2012).  It’s a good book, and Wagner does a decent job talking about the role of innovation in the economy and in our schools. He shares the stories of several young people from various backgrounds who are innovators and who Wagner believes represent a new generation of social and business entrepreneurs


Some of my takeaways from the book include:


  Young people need play, purpose, and passion in their lives and as part of their educational experience to be successful innovators and contributors to the world.  These elements offer the structure and space children—and adults?—need to create and thrive.


  Parents play an integral role in the development, as Wagner refers to them, of the “innovation generation.”  Parents provide time, latitude, encouragement, risk taking, and attention to the young people described in the book.


  Young innovators, often inspired by a neighbor, teacher, or parent, are increasingly committed to STEM and social change fields and opportunities where they commit to deep and experiential learning that is hands on, action-oriented, and based on solving real problems and seeking authentic solutions.


  Often educators and parents may treat students and young people who exhibit creative problem-solving, risk taking, questioning, failure, and quirky (ADD? ADHD?) behaviors as problematic and peculiar.  I liked this quote on page 98:  “And it is precisely this kind of adult behavior that stifles curiosity, creativity, and imagination.  Some of us respond in this way in the belief that we are being helpful and saving someone from wasting his or her time on ‘silly’ ideas.”


  The role and purpose of the middle/high school and university teachers and schools should include ample opportunity to encourage collaboration among students; break down academic silos and promote interdisciplinary learning; provide space for mistakes and failure; and ensure lots of time for making, seeking, and creating.


I like that Wagner recognizes the critical importance of parents and caring adult mentors in the lives and education of young people.  He also acknowledges the dissonance that exists between Federal/State policies and the promotion of innovation:  Race to the Top goals and creative learning are not in synch and will not inspire a pioneering generation of learners.  At the same time, he does not offer a prescription for success for public schools and seems to focus more at the collegiate level.


But his book is an important reminder that without regular and consistent opportunities for young people to express themselves, find a voice to share their ideas and creativity, and work on real problems in authentic situations, they can endure schooling—but their education, and our country’s future, will languish and suffer.




No comments:

Post a Comment