Book Report

I love a good book. I just wrapped up The Global Achievement Gap: Why even our best schools don’t teach the new survival skills our children need–and what we can do about it by Tony Wagner.

The notion of the racial achievement gap and the achievement gaps between rich suburban kids and kids from inner cities is pretty much common knowledge (while the causes of said gaps and how to fix them are widely debated). This book though has nothing to do with those educational fails. This book, as the title suggests, lays out why even the best of the best from the US are still not good enough when you compare us with countries around the world competing for a place in the global economy.

The author is co-director of the Change leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and besides having worked as an educator himself, he acts as a consultant to schools, districts and foundations on education reform. In the book he speaks to corporate CEOs and college and university leaders in hopes of discovering what essential knowledge high school graduates need in order to succeed in post-secondary education and/or the workforce. What he found time and time again, was that content knowledge took a back seat to essential skills and the consensus was that a majority of American high school graduates (including those from prestigious private college preparatory schools) were severely lacking those skills.

I won’t give a full-on book report, but I will list some highlights (stats, quotes, points) that I took notes on (yes, I am a note taker when I read). These are things that spoke to me when I was reading and the sorts of topics that I think would make for an interesting dialogue. I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy a good intellectual, political or ideological discussion over some food and/or drinks. It is a way to challenge yourself and your beliefs and in some instances, create a passion and desire for activism. Open dialogue, in my opinion, is an anecdote for apathy.

So here are some of the highlights!

Wagner discovered that employers and colleges alike are looking for employees and students with Seven Survival Skills. These skills, he believes, are what the school of the 21st century should have as the foundation of all curriculum and instruction. If the content being taught does not lead to the acquisition of these skills, that school is not preparing their graduates to be competitive in the global community. They are:

U.S. high school graduation rate: 70%. Denmark: 96%. Japan: 93%. Poland: 92%. Italy: 79%.

40% of all students who enter college must take remedial courses.

  1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  2. Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence
  3. Agility and Adaptability
  4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
  5. Effective Oral and Written Communication Skills
  6. Accessing and Analyzing Information
  7. Curiosity and Imagination

“What goes on in classrooms today, is the same stuff as fifty years ago, and that is just not going to cut it.”

Thomas Jefferson is said to be the first to declare that literacy is the key to citizenship.

“Kids are learning to read but not learning how to think or care about what they read, nor are they learning to clearly communicate ideas orally and in writing.”

The NEW 3 Rs: Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships

“‘Navigation’ may well be the main form of literacy for the 21st century.” John Seely Brown, author, Growing Up Digital

“Having a choice of schools is critically important.”

And perhaps the most important question the author posed came in the conclusion. It seemed fitting to conclude with this thought as it is this question that is the prologue to education reform (in my humble opinion):

What does it mean to be an educated adult in the 21st century?

So if you are looking for a good book, you know which one I am going to recommend. 🙂

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