Sunday, March 29, 2009
Call of a different sort of reform in America’s schools.
I submitted this as a commentary for NPR all things considered – well not this piece – well it was nice of them to consider it. Eric
We need to pull back on testing our students and spend more time on the arts, with a focus on real world communication skills, creative problem solving and people management that businesses will need to have if America is to be successful it the 21st century economy.
The ability to spell or add, are no longer relevant to the success of anyone in a world that includes word processors and spreadsheet programs on every computer. The ability to recall a certain historic date or scientific fact will not decide the fate of any American with Wikipedia one click away. Even the valued alphabetizing skills developed in grade schools across the country, once used in leafing through the Yellow Pages by every American is now obsolete due to google.
There are many skills that are still relevant – skills that become even more important in an economy where any job is just one click away from being outsourced to Indonesia. The capacity of students to: manage people, be creative in the face of conflict or problems, a willingness to set goals and follow them, to speak with truth and passion to an audience of any size and a stubborn willingness to keep trying will lead directly to success in the next generation.
There has long been a growing disconnect between the creative skills used in the arts and business to succeed and the skills that America’s schools teach. It’s time for schools to be based on a 21st century model where creativity, originality, passion and perseverance are the coin of the realm.
One of the key skills that could be developed further in American schools is the use of storytelling. Not the sort of storytelling of sweet little old lady at a library reading a book, a worthy vocation. But the American use of storytelling in every aspect of our lives from successful interviews, to sales, in media and in just normal everyday talk. I have had the pleasure of visiting hundreds of schools around the country as a professional storyteller and I am sorry to report that only one school had any experience with public speaking prior to my arrival. The ability to speak without notes, to as Mark Twain once said – “extemporize” or to just feel comfortable answering question in public, are essential skills to any student’s long term success in life.
It’s time for us to rethink what it means to be in school. When creativity and perseverance is our guiding light the world opens it’s doors to meet us.
Eric Wolf has a M.S. in Education and is the Host and producer of the Art of Storytelling with Children Podcast with over 80+ hour long interviews on how to use storytelling in just about every aspect of school and life. http://www.artofstorytellingshow.com