According to a new book, Becoming Brilliant, children today need to be taught differently in light of their future in the workplace and in society.
The authors argue that the business world and, perhaps, life require the ability to communicate effectively and solve problems creatively. The American emphasis on test scores in reading, writing, and arithmetic is too narrow.
The authors propose a suite of skills based on research in the science of learning:
- Collaboration: the ability to work with others, to have social-emotional control, and to form communities.
- Communication: the ability to develop strong language skills, excellent listening skills, and strong reading and writing outcomes.
- Content: competencies in subject areas but also in learning to learn.
- Critical thinking: the ability to sift through information intelligently and to weigh evidence.
- Creative Innovation: the ability to use information in new ways to solve obvious and undefined problems.
- Confidence: the ability to learn from failure, to persist in a problem, and to have grit.
Happily, the authors aren’t throwing out the baby (content knowledge) with the bath water (overemphasis on test scores), but their emphasis is on socialization skills and other so-called non-cognitive skills that James Heckman, Angela Duckworth, and others say make a greater difference in children’s ability to succeed than high test scores.
Of course, we need both.
We need students to graduate from high school having mastered the three R’s, but also ready to meet the demands of college and career, capable of thinking on their feet and approaching problems thoughtfully and creatively.
One reason why the Tony Award-winning musical Hamilton is such an outsized success (it won 11 Tony Awards) is its originality. Who would have ever thought to have a black man portray George Washington—or cast a Puerto Rican as Alexander Hamilton? Or to use hip-hop to tell the (formerly staid) story of our country’s birth, and thereby invigorate and enliven it?
It’s interesting to note, though, that Lin-Manuel Miranda attended schools for gifted children—which typically avoid the overly strict, sit-at-your-desk, fold-your-hands, and-track-the-teacher ethos of the schools many low-income children attend.
Original thinking, innovative approaches to problems, tend to be developed in community.
For example, math skills are critical—but learning math doesn’t have to be boring! I recently wrote about BEAM, a New York-based organization that teaches advanced math to students in low-income schools. Students end up loving math and not wanting the program to end. One critical component? The community BEAM creates.
In community, kids learn collaboration, communication, critical thinking—as well as math.
For more information about Becoming Brilliant, visit this website.