Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

[Susan notes: Although I am antagonistic toward calls for "21st models for education," the author makes excellent points. ]

Published in Education Week

To the editor

The best thing that could happen to U.S. education policy would be for educators to heed the hints in Yong Zhao's Commentary about changes in China's approach to education ("A Pause Before Plunging Through the China Looking Glass," May 10, 2006). I recently returned from a two-month trip to Thailand, where education reform is mirroring China's for basically the same reasons. While I suspect that success will be difficult for the Thais because of tradition and other factors, they certainly aren't looking to emulate current American trends.

They, like the Chinese, want to free their students to become creative learners, not ones who regurgitate facts and lessons. They have realized that high-stakes testing limits curricula, instruction, and students' chances to develop a broad range of abilities. It dulls the mind and inhibits both teachers' and students' ingenuity, the wellspring of entrepreneurship. The result is boredom, a lack of relevance, and unnecessary, counterproductive anxiety.

I returned from Thailand more convinced of the error in the United States' educational direction. We need to quit comparing ourselves with others and start building on our strengths. To do that, we must start thinking outside the box, and emphasize the development of skills through more interdisciplinary projects that involve technology and teamwork. We also must foster a greater sense of the importance of lifelong learning in students by giving them leeway to determine the topics within those projects, while demanding excellence and authenticity. Let students produce and defend, then let the public judge the results.

To invest in the next generation, we need to lower class sizes, pay teachers well, and pour resources into rural and urban schools. But we first must find a 21st-century model for education, instead of relying on what was good for the past two generations.

Michael MacLeod

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.