What Standards are Most Important to Teach?

There has been a lot of rhetoric in the press about the Core Standards.  While I admire, in some sense, the renewed spirit of collaboration in trying to create a common set of standards across the 50 states, my fear is that we continue to focus on the wrong things.  But actually, the focus on STEM will be opening up new buckets of opportunity for disruptive innovators.  Like everything else in the mainstream, all of us share the blame in overusing a word to the point you are sick and tired of hearing it.  Words like synergy, web2.0, innovation, 21st century skills, social media, and now, STEM.

STEM, STEM, STEM.  Our education system is so paranoid right now that I fear it will again be vulnerable to the forces of “cramming,” as the folks at Innosight Institute have characterized  previous attempts to implement new technology into the K-12 environment.  We’ve spent so much time trying to agree on terminology, that we are losing sight on what we really need to teach our children, and how we teach it.

Secretary of Education Duncan recently told an audience the following:

“All of you know the history all too well. For decades, arts education has been treated as though it was the novice teacher at school, the last hired and first fired when times get tough. But President Obama, the First Lady, and I reject the notion that the arts, history, foreign languages, geography, and civics are ornamental offerings that can or should be cut from schools during a fiscal crunch. The truth is that, in the information age, a well-rounded curriculum is not a luxury but a necessity.

But that’s not what’s happening in reality.  These programs are getting cut.  Arts education helps people to think creatively and to find solutions to complex problems.  It also allows people to think “out of the box” and not be bound by the status quo.  Seth Godin has some very inciteful comments about this area in his latest book, Linchpin.  There is a strong force to stifle creativity, and it is incumbent upon all of us to not let this virus to take root and widen the competitiveness gap with the civilized world.

A recent article outlined a new definition of  “Career Readiness.”  But this definition fails to hit the mark in non-technical skills that are absolutely critical to innovation.  There are many derivations of what the critical skills should be, but I like these:

  1. Digital Age Literacy – Today’s Basics
  2. Inventive Thinking – Intellectual Capital
  3. Interactive Communication – Social & Personal Skills
  4. Quality, State-of-the-Art Results

The paper gets into this in more detail, but #’s 2 & 3 are likely places where the arts & education might fit in. 


Lets make sure we teach to the whole child and not forget that creativity is what gives kids the opportunity to learn a talent, to build self-esteem, and provide them with a chance to reach their fullest potential.



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