Monday, January 02, 2006

Are students ready for "the conceptual age?"

Standardized tests exist in every sector of the educational landscape. From the SAT to the GRE, LSAT and more, there is considerable interest in numbers. It makes it easy to quantify learning. But, if you give someone two separate ideas and ask them to combine them into one usable idea, or ask them to explain a phenomenon or interpret data, some of these great test takers might fall short. Why? Because the emphasis in education is on standardizing knowledge, not on creativity or abstract thinking. Even in 2005, we still expect students, for the most part, to think in a linear fashion. Yet, our world is changing... quickly. Daniel Pink, in A Whole New Mind, reports that we are entering a "conceptual age," when we will need people to think in new ways. Employers, according to Pink, will need students to see a larger picture, one where they can see trends, merge ideas and create new strategies. Richard Florida reports that there are nearly 40 million people now in the U.S. who are part of a "creative class." This group of teachers, musicians, artists, scientists and others makes up approximately 30 percent of the workforce. Also consider the observations of Tom Friedman in The World is Flat,that places like Bangalore and Beijing are becoming rival economic centers to US cities, and we have to ask ourselves, as educators, if we should make changes or additions to the curriculum.

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