Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What Was it That Einstein Once Said?

Several years ago I read the book 'Catching Up or Leading the Way' by Yong Zhao, who currently serves as the Director of Global and Online Education at the University of Oregon. Dr. Zhao was born in China and went through the Chinese educational system before coming to the United States in the 90s. Because of his unique experience in both the Chinese and American systems of education, it puts him in the rare position of being able to accurately compare the two. He argues in this book that while the United States is busy trying to reform our educational system to make it more like China, China is trying to reform their education and make it more like America. Huh? Yep, you heard me right! Now, I am certainly no expert on the Chinese educational system, but I have read a bit and talked to some folks who describe a system that is more regimented with a high focus on math and science. This compared to schools in our country where we take a much more holistic and comprehensive approach to education.

A net outcome of our American educational system continues to be a top patent registering country. In 2014 according to the U.S Patent Office, the United States registered 158,713 patents, compared to the next country in line (Japan) which registered 56,006. By contrast, China registered 7,921. If one were to look at creativity as it relates to student outcomes there is a possible correlation between these metrics. As in the fact that one might be able to suggest there is more value to a holistic and comprehensive educational system that focuses on critical thinking skills and creativity than a singular focus on math and science. 

Last spring we were approached by an individual who is a dual citizen of both China and the United States. He was representing citizens in China who were interested in attending an American high school and earning a diploma, in this case from Hudson High School. These families are eager for their children to have this type of education and are willing to pay top dollar. This shouldn't come as too big of a shock, after all many Chinese students are clamoring for spots in U.S. colleges and universities. His comments echoed those that Dr. Zhao describes in his book. It is their desire to have a more comprehensive approach to education. The argument Zhao makes is that a test-oriented education leads to less creativity (p. 91). Further, my visitor suggested that the American public school does a much better job of preparing students for the university than they do in China. So what then, does that 'American High School' experience exactly look like? Well, I think we can point to many activities and subjects that serve as a cultural reflection of our school that are very appealing which extend beyond the Core. And, numerous studies have shown that when students have a strong connection to their school, they perform better academically. Therefore, in many ways, we strengthen that connection through a comprehensive co and extra-curricular program. 

Furthermore, one of the indicators of whether or not a student is At-Risk of failing or dropping out in school is 'connection to school'. Because of this we work hard at ensuring students at Hudson have multiple opportunities to be involved in activities outside the walls of the traditional classroom. Be that in the numerous clubs in our high school, student government, arts, music, or athletics. The trouble here of course is that the ultimate impact these activities have on math and science tests is hard to quantify. That is too bad, because there has been a lot of talk this next legislative session is going to be more difficult than the last. This of course translates into fewer dollars invested in education, which means that many school districts will be forced to make difficult decisions, yet again. In some places these valuable programs that encapsulate the very culture of schools and communities may be jeopardized. In some places, the very programs that kept some students in school may be at risk. And yes, in some places, the very programs that ignited a creative idea that ultimately turns into a registered patent may be squashed.

Albert Einstein once said, "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted". It seems that other countries, like China for example have figured that out. It would serve us well if we didn't forget it.

No comments:

Post a Comment