Much has been made about America being the center of innovation. Proponents of our educational system have claimed that it is our emphasis on the arts and creative thought as opposed to memorization and focusing on the mechanics of science and math of other countries that has led to innovation and creative thinking.
Speaking as an innovator I feel that it requires both to make innovations successful. For every renovator it requires tens, hundreds, or thousands of mechanics to turn an innovation into a successful product. It is the end product which makes innovation a successful reality. Steve Jobs came up with some exceptional concepts but it took many people like Steve Wozniak and the thousands of Apple engineers to turn Jobs’ concepts into working and marketable realities.
Not everyone is going to be an innovator. These people are in the great minority. It doesn’t take a lot of innovators to make an innovative Silicon Valley. But it does take thousands of technical engineers, the mechanics, to turn innovations into tangible and marketable products that enrich economic growth and prosperity. It is my experience that being taught to memories and study the mechanics of math and science is not going to stifle those who are creative and innovative, but it will contribute much to building up that strong base of mechanics that turn the few innovations into tangible products. These mechanics are good at creating incremental innovation.
Those truly gifted with creative only need the availability of tools to tinker with while they learn the mechanics of the world. I am convinced that creativity is not learned but somehow part of one’s DNA. Thinking outside the box is not a discipline, rather a quirk of nature that results in beneficial result, like mutations which meet the needs of the environment in which an organ exists and enhances it functionality or ability to survive.
I’m a strong proponent of a sound education. There are variations in teaching techniques but I personally find that I learn best when I felt challenged. Pounding things into my brain was usually a waste of time but if a teacher could inspire interest in the subject I would become curious to learn and motivated to do the exercises necessary to become better. Learning must be interesting to the learner or it takes an enormous amount of everybody’s effort to achieve very little. Education needs two complementary elements to be effective: Interest and challenge. You must turn the learner’s brain on so that the learner is engaged. Once engagement has been achieved than the learner needs to be challenged to take the subject to the next level then to progressively higher levels, like playing a video game. Winning the game of knowledge is coming up with the answer then being challenged to progressively more difficult problems. It should be done in small enough increments such that learners do not get discouraged by overly difficult challenges. Computer programs could be developed to achieve the Challenging aspect of learning but nothing can replace a good teacher for Interesting a learner in the subject.
I think the arts are also important as part of the educational experience but not because it can teach or stimulate creativity and innovation in students but because it teaches them that there is more to life than learning the basic survival skills and mechanics needed for the future. The arts teach students to appreciate and enjoy a part of life that is not job related though it can lead to a career for a few.
I feel the government should invest as much into education k-12 and college level as it throws away at the military. Currently the government puts $136 Billion into education and $901 Billion into defense. I think it more appropriate for it to put $400 Billion in each. This would do so much good for the future of America and perhaps keep us out of more unproductive wars.
But money is not everything. Having an educational system that is effective and efficient would go far to more effectively educating our children. We are ranked the highest in money spent per student in the world but ranked in the lower half of nations internationally in math and science, the areas where innovation are of greatest economic value. We are not getting the best bang for the buck and places our children in jeopardy of lacking the skills to sustainably excel in this global economy of the future. As developing nations with far greater populations, such as China and India, become more affluent they will become larger share players in the global economy and the US share will diminish. Something needs to urgently be done to enhance the quality of education our students receive and the level of education students are actually achieving. National metrics must be established for determining progress and these compared with those of other leading nations to assure we keep up with or exceed the rate of grown of other courtiers in education. We cannot afford to keep on doing things the same old way.
Teachers must be paid strictly by performance instead of seniority. Students must be at the center of education, not teachers. Teacher unions must change their priorities or become a thing of the past. We have no time to waste on under educating our children. We are in a crisis without knowing it like climate change. America is so much in denial that we are in danger of falling from the top as did Rome more than a thousand years ago and England more recently. Look at how self-serving our government has become and compare it with the fall of the Roman Empire. If you are honest you will find many striking similarities.
I feel that our public educational system need pressure to improve or things will continue as they are. I believe that a voucher system allowing parents a better opportunity to send their kids to accredited private schools will put pressure on public schools to improve. Accredited schools must maintain national standards that are as high as the national average for public schools to maintain accreditation. Healthy competition will be the driving force for improving public schools or making them obsolete if they cannot do the job. Low performing schools will start losing students thus will either have to improve to retain students or close their doors. The goal must be to give our kids the best education, not whether is comes from public or private schools. Whichever schools does the best job should be the schools we all support. Schools that fail to educate our kids have no business teaching our kids. It is as simple as that.
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