Public education is underfunded and undervalued. An education expert and a venture capitalist look to improve the situation.
In the spirit of creative destruction—as opposed to the mere destruction wrought by state legislatures everywhere—Harvard Innovation Lab’s “Expert in Residence” Wagner (Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, 2012, etc.) and venture capitalist Dintersmith argue that we must make the system more appropriate to the needs of the present era. Gone are the summer breaks and civics lectures of yore; in are scenarios in which students “attack meaningful, engaging challenges” and “form their own points of view.” For all its good points and positive intent, this book is mostly bullet lists and screened boxes, tables and charts, with a tediously long windup before a pitch is ever thrown. When that pitch is delivered, it lands pretty solidly: yes, education is a mess, and yes, retooling parts of the system are in order. But get down to it, and things get arguable. If an apprenticeship in auto mechanics involves a working knowledge of how an engine is assembled and the functions of its constituent parts, then why shouldn’t a class in English discuss how a sentence works? Not on the authors’ watch, for by their account, “teachers spend an inordinate amount of time teaching the mechanics of writing—parts of speech, grammar, spelling, punctuation—without giving students any reason whatsoever to want to write.” Wagner and Dintersmith’s program would seem to be Horace Mann’s industrial education refocused for the post-knowledge-worker set, the argument often repetitive and plaintive: “We tell our kids that they will be abject failures without a high school diploma, but fail to provide them with relevant or engaging challenges during their four years in high school.”
Of some interest to curriculum-reform advocates and policy planners but without the fire and grace of Ivan Illich, Neil Postman, and others.