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
Some of my takeaways from the book include:
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.
an integral role in the development, as Wagner refers to them, of the
provide time, latitude, encouragement, risk taking, and attention to the young
people described in the book.
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.
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
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.