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TIES 14 Notes: Yong Zhao : What Is Right About American Education

Dr. Yong Zhao was the Monday keynote at the TIES conference.
His latest book, The Big Bad Dragon, The Myth of Chinese Super Schools, reviewed by Diane Ravitch, here, discusses what we really need to focus on with education reform today.

Zhao started talking about Nokia phones, looking at how they used to be the most popular. Who killed Nokia? 
Nobody killed Nokia, but Nokia itself. It tried to make a dumb phone smarter, Apple tried to make a smart phone!

In education, are we modifying existing school, or are we trying to invent something different?

He's been looking at developing language software for a long time.
We have done a lot of work. Technology and other reforms have failed.

  • "Progressive education"
  • No Child Left Behind
  • Race to the Top
  • Common Core

All of these "reforms" really haven't transformed, or solved our problems. Obama and Bush's reform efforts have been about the same.
Once you get to the top, you fall down off the cliff and no one is left behind. Mission Accomplished!

Readiness is one of the most absurd words in education these days.
Kindergarten readiness. Education should be getting ready for me, not students getting ready for education!

This is a misnomer! 
The problem with the Common Core is that it is "common" and "core!"
The idea that college is so great, is a myth. 
Half way through his son's experience, he decided he didn't want to do economics. He was passionate about art and art history. He went for it, and afterwards, said:
"I'm sorry for you, that I majored in Art, because in China that is considered a failure. (Zhao noted he was supposed to be a farmer/peasant and he failed at that! He did not meet AYP in driving water buffalo!)

A good education is "out of the basement" readiness! A great education is one that keeps people's children out of their basement. Independence!

Too many of our students are "boomerang kids." 53% are jobless or underemployed!

We have the best educated coffee-makers and bartenders in the world today! 

High unemployment but highly educated for the wrong economy!

Economies change and they redefine knowledge and talents.
Sometimes, technology creates new opportunities and makes other problems go away. 
In the 1800's there were too many horses. An international crisis! We need to do something about this!
Imagine what problems a car might solve. What impact will the driverless car solve, and what problems will this cause?
  • Safety
  • Gridlock (Though don't get a Windows and Google car near each other!)
  • Drunk and distracted driving
  • Visually impared
  • Driving age?
  • Programmers (Security!)
  • Interior Design
  • Reclaiming parking spaces and other infrastructure
What will happen with:
  • Uber?
  • Taxi Drivers
  • Bus Drivers
  • Traffic Police
  • Parking spaces
  • Driver's Ed
Zhao mentioned, "The Second Machine Age," dealing with how digital technologies are transforming work.
Blue collar AND White collar jobs are going away and being replaced. 
Look at lawyers and tax accountants. Turbotax has replaced one and now lawyers are being replaced by data bases and digital search. Medical fields are also being replaced.

Also, the globalization and flattening of the world has made a huge impact, as outlined in "The World is Flat."

Zhao asks two important questions:

Are you preparing students to compete with machines?
  • Farming and Working jobs have been in decline, but service and creative jobs are going up.
  • The new middle class has to be the creative class!
  • (See Doug Johnson's talk from earlier!)
  • We want creativity, but our traditional schools are about compliance, and stifle creativity!
  • Creativity declines w/ age, but can bounce back after retirement! 
  • It isn't cognitive, but psychological
  • Standardized test teach us to comply.
  • In new economies, useless people become more useful. Kim Kardasian is not in her parents basement! Famous for being famous. Why do people consume nothingness? (Age of necessity vs. age of abundance) We used to consume things we need. Food etc.
  • Choice is a great commodity today.
  • We stifle creativity by standardization
Are you preparing students to compete with students getting educated at a lower cost? 

We need to create jobs, not find jobs. We need Entrepreneurial thinking.
Business enterpreneurs, Social enterpreneurs.
Most of the qualities are non-cognitive.
We currently take individual differences, cutural diversity, curiosity and passion and funnel it into 

The Children's Machine from Pappert is a model for what we need to do!

Zhao gave the example of the optimum height people should be at as an analogy of what we are doing with No Child Left Behind. We all don't grow at the same speed, and we only assess a few subjects!
Albert Einstein MIGHT bet a 2400 on the SAT, but is that what we should be measuring against?!
This is a "sausage making model!"
What happens when the economy needs bacon?

We have ALWAYS been bad on test scores. If anyone tells you we are declining, they are lying! Even if it were, we still have the largest, most prosperous economy in the world!
Why is America still here?

Now China is #1 in PISA scores for two years running. Americans are startled! Arne Duncan thinks this is a wake-up call and we need a "Sputnik Moment."

Zhao argues, why do we want to do this? Shanghai is still trying to catch us economically! We have been reducing our education ambision! We used to want to go to the moon! Then Bush says the national goal is everyone can read! 
We are spending too much time focused on China. China is looking at US!
They want more Steve Jobs! They want to make their education more like ours.

The side effects of this:
  • We need medicine, but there are nasty side-effects
  • Warning labels should be put on early reading programs. It may improve your scores, but you'll hate reading for ever.
  • Time is a constant. If you spend time studying for a test, you can't play and develop social skills.
Zhao noted that students in the US may have lower scores, but have a great deal of confidence! Our children are bad because they don't know how bad they are! The cure: Let's test them more and show them how bad they are!

When we look at Asian scores, the students have very low interest and motivation in the very things they do well in. Countries with high test scores have lower enterpreneurial confidence. We ned 

American education has survived by being a broken sausage maker that made

Enhance strengths, not fix deficits
  • Student Autonomy
  • Product Oriented Learning
  • Global Campus
If you give children the opportunities that technology provides, we will incubate innovators and entrerpeneurs!

It was heartening to hear that much of what Zhao said today is covered in our Educational Competencies we have developed.


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