York Times Columnist Thomas L. Friedman devoted his Sunday column to one of the critical challenges facing America today: Our need to continue innovating our way to the future.
His column, Do You Want the Good News First, focused on the gap between available jobs and qualified applicants in Seattle. As Friedman observed, “Never have individuals been more empowered, and we’re just at the start of this trend.”
We need to equip our students today with the skills they will need to participate in this revolution. Yet, we still don’t have a consensus on what’s right with public education and where we want it to go as a nation. The single most urgent questions facing American public schools today are: What do we need our children to learn? How are we going to make sure they all have an opportunity to learn that? And how do we know how much they accomplish?
As Friedman points out, getting an answer to that question is going to be one of the biggest challenges we face in this century. Except that we don’t have a century, or even a couple of decades, to get it right. We’re inventing a whole new class of skills and jobs in America at a breathless pace.
So how do we get to the finish line faster? By engaging classroom teachers in the conversation.
If we need to innovate our way to our economic future, then we need to innovate our way to higher quality, more effective public education today. That means allowing teachers the freedom they need to be innovative in their own classrooms. And it means letting them tell us what they—and their students—need to succeed.
As one teacher from Massachusetts commented as part of an Idea Exchange: Parents are always asking her opinion about what their children need to succeed. Why don’t education policy makers have the same faith in her professional expertise?