Below is a comment by a retired teacher/mother who responded to Diane Ravitch’s piece, The President’s Speech, in Ed Week. It’s a testimony as to why America has done so well in innovation, and that the current ed reform push is a major threat to our creativity. If this woman’s son, Michael, had been educated in today’s NCLB/RTTT era, would he have been as innovative? Makes me wonder how many “Michaels” we will lose to this new ed reform push that rewards rote memorization and test taking “effectiveness”, while suffocating creativity and exploration.
1:04 PM on February 1, 2011
I’d like to know how many of our great American innovators are like my older son Michael.
When Michael was five years old, he had a little friend from Japan. The Japanese child seemed miles ahead of my son in academics as he could read and write fluently even though he was only in kindergarten. All Michael wanted to do was play and soon the Japanese child tired of him. My husband and I became concerned and attempted to get our “baby” caught up. I hurried to Teachers Supplies to buy workbooks. But Michael pleaded with me, “Please Mommy, I just want to play.” We quickly gave in.
So Michael played throughout his childhood. He “played ” mostly with construction toys, computers, telescopes and ham radio. He enjoyed summer science workshops at the museum, which were strictly hands-on. Both his school grades and test scores were mediocre.
Things began to change during Michael’s senior year in high school, but by then it was too late for him to be admitted to a first-tier university (or any university for that matter). Instead he went to the local community college where he enrolled in science and math classes. The first sign that I got that my son’s academic life had changed was when he came home with an A in “Differential Equations.”
“Gosh, these junior colleges really ARE easy,” I commented to my husband when I saw all the A’s.
“You don’t get an A in Differential Equations unless you know what you’re doing” responded my husband, who knew what it was.
From that point on, Michael received all A’s and was admitted to the University of California. He was awarded a full fellowship to Stanford University where he earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. Today he is the “principal scientist” for a company that develops protective devices for our servicemen. My son has a number of patents for his inventions.
Just last year I asked my son why he never liked school before college and here are his exact words: “It was all about rote and that’s not my strength.”
Indeed. Is my son unusual or are there many Americans with similar school stories?
I wrote to Professor Zhao a few years ago and he responded that he intended to raise his children the American way; the way that has afforded us the number one spot in the world in terms of creativity and innovation. Let’s all hope we aren’t in the process of destroying it at this time. We’ll have to depend on the wisdom of parents like Tgoble to let the school know how they feel. Only parents can really put a stop to all the testing madness.