I don't highlight passages in every nonfiction book I read. That's because, if I don't think I want to keep it, I want it to be pristine enough to donate to my local library. Since I'm the host of a radio program, a lot of publishers send me review copies, which means that my library is the happy beneficiary of many books!
Over the holidays I started reading Linda Darling-Hammond's The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future. I had barely begun when I jumped from my chair and ran upstairs for a highlighter. There was no chance I was giving this one away! (Sorry, library; I hope you'll get a copy of your own, though, so the fine citizens of this town can benefit from it!)
Equally steeped in both research and passion, this magnificent offering should be enough to make policy makers sit upright and take notice of what's really going on in education in this country -- and finally do something about it! Said Harvard's Howard Gardner, author of the multiple-intelligences theory: "Anyone who desires a quantum leap in the educational achievements of American students -- as opposed to the 'quick fix' -- must address the issues raised in this carefully argued and well-documented work."
I want to share a few passages from the first chapter with you:
- "At least 70% of U.S. jobs now require specialized knowledge and skills, as compared to only 5% at the dawn of the last century, when our current system of schooling was established."
- "The top 10 in-demand jobs projected for 2010 did not exist in 2004. Thus, the new mission of schools is to prepare students to work at jobs that do not yet exist, creating ideas and solutions for products and problems that have not yet been identified, using technologies that have not yet been invented."
- "...education can no longer be productively focused primarily on the transmission of pieces of information that, once memorized, comprise a stable storehouse of knowledge. Instead, schools must teach disciplinary knowledge in ways that focus on central concepts and help students learn how to think critically and learn for themselves, so that they can use knowledge in new situations and manage the demands of changing information, technologies, jobs, and social conditions. These are not new skills, but they were not envisioned for most students in the school system we designed between 1900 and 1920. That system was based on the factory model then made popular by Henry Ford's assembly line."
- "Because the economy can no longer absorb many unskilled workers at decent wages, lack of education is increasingly linked to crime and welfare dependency."
- "As other countries have been pouring resources into education, both their achievement and graduation rates have been climbing for all of their students, including recent immigrants and historical minorities. Meanwhile, the current generation of young Americans may be the first to be less well educated and less upwardly mobile then the one before."
You get the picture. If things don't change -- drastically -- we are in big, big trouble.
Yes, this is depressing stuff. But Darling-Hammond doesn't just give us the bad news and leave it at that; rather, she postulates remedies throughout. If you care about education, I recommend you read this book.