"In Yong Zhao's book Catching up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization.
In it, Zhao contends that the American education system has succeeded
in keeping the US economically dominant because it allows for diversity
and second chances. Unlike many Asian countries, which sort students
early on by test scores, the United States gives students second
chances, as well as a variety of opportunities to develop diverse
Zhao argues that this diversity of talents, and the ability for people to develop them throughout their formative years, is what allows the United States to adapt to new situations. Indeed, he shows that countries such as China, Japan, and South Korea, are pushing for educational reform that relies less on test scores, encourages diversity, and postpones tracking of students. Ironically, this is exactly the opposite of what the United States is doing, as we try to catch up to the Asian countries whose education systems we applaud.
Since you reference my film, 2 Million Minutes, I'd like to clarify what I was trying to convey when I produced the documentary.
First, based on 25 years as an entrepreneur and high-tech investor, it is my strong belief that every job will require higher cognitive skills in the 21st century than in the 20th century. I have witnessed this cognitive increase in my own companies just in the past 10 years.
Most jobs our children will have don't even exist now - they have yet to be created. Jobs like SEO Manager or Social Media Manager weren't even in existence 10 years ago. Now they are high-paying careers.
From that premise, I believe American children would be well served with a deeper and longer education in math, physics, chemistry, biology and computer science.
The mental rigor of these classes, combined with the technical cognitive development, will simply be the "entry ticket" for high-wage, high-growth jobs of the 21st century - IMHO.
I also believe American K-12 education should more intentionally concentrate on the arts, music, drama and creative, right brain skills.
Creative, innovative, inventive and entrepreneurial skills will be the differentiator in careers, compensation and job satisfaction in the 21st century, I believe.
"Whole brain" education must be addressed in schools the world over, as Dr. Zhao and I both articulated at a recent conference in the U.K. China and India are moving in that direction, as Dr. Zhao points out.
I am not advocating anything other than that American students need a K-12 curriculum that matches world standards, has a heavy component of innovation and creativity training (ala the Imagineering program at Disney or the creativity course for Stanford ME's) and teaches the basic skills of entrepreneurship.
U.S. public schools do not do this today, to the detriment of our children. And when 30% drop out of high school, they will struggle to find meaningful work their whole lives - an enormous waste of talent. Some will succeed, as Lincoln, Disney and Lucy Ball did. But they will be the small minority. Most will lead lives of poverty.
A few American private and charter schools have achieved this higher standard in core courses without sacrificing the best of creativity, critical thinking and innovation.
In my most recent education documentary film - The 21st Century Solution - I profile one such charter school in Arizona, the BASIS Charter School. This film shows that American kids can outperform Chinese and Indians in math and science and at the same time develop creatively.
Is BASIS perfect - of course not. Is it the direction American K-12 schools should move if we care about our children and their ability to be financially self-sufficient and happy in their careers - I believe so.
2 Million Minutes & The 21st Century Solution