Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Are We Damning our Students to Commodity Hell?

I sat in on a training session the other day. The topic was "How to Write Rubrics". It was an interesting workshop, although the instructor had about 10lbs of stuff to get into a 5lb sack, way too much material to cover. I'm not sure what the other participants got out of it, with no chance to practice or absorb the material.

During he workshop, the instructor referenced Bloom's Taxonomy. I was a little shocked to realize that there were people at my table who had never heard of it. Here is an image of Bloom's Taxonomy, thanks to John Manuel via the Wikipedia Common.

There is a point to all this, stick with me for a sec.

What Blooms Taxonmy has always done for me is to encourage me to push my teaching from the lower levels where students memorize facts (that are are so easy to score and required not much from me as a teacher) to the higher levels where students analyze, sythesize, and evaluate.

What employers are going to demand of our students is that they make knowledge, create new ideas and products, redevelop old things into new. Our students won't be able to do this if they don't learn how to do it in school. This isn't a nice-to-have. This will be absolutely mission critical. Linda Naiman of the Creativity at Work blog says,
"If you are not adding creativity to your products or services, you are doomed to commodity hell, where you are just competing on price."

Our companies in the US can't compete against emerging nations on cost. Wake up -- all those low-paying jobs have left the building. They're in India, Malaysia, China, where workers earn a fraction of what they are paid here. We have to compete on creativity. And creativity is a higher level skill.

We have  a moral obligation to our students to teach them how to collaborate, how to be creative, how to generate knowledge. Otherwise we are sending them out in the world unequiped to compete in a global market. That will spell the end of our happy materialistic consumeristic society. Or as George Baily said, when he famously melted down,
"Where's that money, you silly stupid old fool? Where's that money? Do you realize what this means? It means bankruptcy and scandal and prison. That's what it means. One of us is going to jail - well, it's not gonna be me."
Well, maybe not jail. But it won't be much better.


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