Monday, July 19, 2010

Not Holding My Breath for a Compromise


But it won't do just to get in touch with our inner poets or to move all our mental furniture into our right brains. Creativity depends on steady commerce between the left and right brains, Bronson and Merryman write. "Creativity isn’t about freedom from concrete facts. Rather, fact-finding and deep research are vital stages in the creative process."

I wonder if this more robust vision of creativity can lead us to a truce in the battle between the traditionalists and the revolutionaries, between knowledge and 21st-century skills. You cannot reach a creative solution if you don't know your stuff.

The problem is that, at least rhetorically, the "21st Century Skills" side is more than willing to agree that you have to know stuff. The "knowledge" side hasn't left any room for compromise.

Luckily, I had a much better primary and secondary education than most people my age in America and spent three years doing Future Problem Solving, which does an excellent job of teaching the connection between knowledge, research and creativity, so I intuitively understand how these two parts are supposed to fit together.


jd2718 said...

I don't know how it works in other areas, but in mathematics the non-skills side says "yes, yes, yes, we agree skills are important" but then in the field they behave otherwise.

In part they really think they are much smarter than teachers, and that they need to change teacher behavior.


Claus von Zastrow said...

I was also a future problem solver--but I wasn't very good at it. (Too many of my solutions involved shooting things into outer space.) But the program really was first rate.

I think there are people of good faith on both sides who can come to substantial agreement.

Tom Hoffman said...

Oddly my groups tended toward tax credits for everything, which has turned out to be a popular approach here in the future.

There IS plenty of room for agreement -- I guess what I'm saying that the people driving the arguments aren't going to be the ones to find it.

But if you just look at say, all the other developed countries' standards, it is pretty clear that there is a middle ground.

Jason said...

The compromise seems pretty straight forward to me-- creative work and problem solving seems pointless without something worth thinking deeply about.

I think the separation between these two sides happens when progressives push for self-directed learning processes AND content and when the content folks push for content regardless of delivery method or assessment technique.

There IS a set of information that's more worth knowing than other information. There are important social implications of taking away the most important content or treating it as second-fiddle to skills. But good pedagogy will always involve multiple mediums and deliveries, and true, deep learning will always occur when students reshape information in a unique way for themselves.

Robert Pondiscio said...

I'm with Claus. I think there's plenty of room for compromise. From my perspective the skills side (if you insist on the dichotomy) "gets" that knowledge matters. What the don't get is the difference between what Alfie Kohn derides as the "bunch 'o facts" and the coherent, sequential acquisition of broad knowledge that needs to be cultivated.