Thomas Friedman writes in the New York Times that the American public education system is preparing students for a world that’s fading fast, or long gone. Paraphrasing Marc Tucker from the National Center on Education and the Economy, Friedman suggests that an increasingly global and integrated world economy will make traditional ways of learning and doing less and less competitive:
That means…revamping an education system designed in the 1900s for people to do ”routine work” and refocusing it on producing people who can imagine things that have never been available before, who can create ingenious marketing and sales campaigns, write books, build furniture, make movies and design software ”that will capture people’s imaginations and become indispensable for millions.”
Tucker’s upcoming report, ”Tough Choices or Tough Times,” calls for public education and the curriculum that drives it to emphasize creative thinking. Says he:
”One thing we know about creativity is that it typically occurs when people who have mastered two or more quite different fields use the framework in one to think afresh about the other….” Thus, his report focuses on ”how to make that kind of thinking integral to every level of education.”
While this may seem a boon for arts education, it suggests a certain kind of arts education may be required. Certainly, the context, history, rules, and semantics of cultural expression will remain part of the mix — as they should. But truly creative thinking requires creation of creative work, not only the study of other people’s creative efforts.
And while ”labor-force readiness” always makes me a bit woozy when flagged as the defining goal of public education, it’s an argument that’s worth having in the arsenal. I’m glad to have Thomas Friedman on our side.