The Global Achievement Gap

While I’m recommending books…. I recently read The Global Achievement Gap, by Tony Wagner, an excellent book about the failures of today’s secondary schools and how schools prepare students to memorize facts rather than problem solve. He identifies seven skills necessary to survive in the 21st century: critical thinking and problem solving; collaboration across networks; agility and adaptability; initiative and entrepreneurialism; effective oral and written communication; accessing and analyzing information; and developing curiosity and imagination. He takes “learning walks” through schools, and provides snapshots of school days, both good and bad. I wish every principal would read this book, take a learning walk of her/his own, and then implement many of the wonderful suggestions for ways to engage students in a meaningful way.

7 thoughts on “The Global Achievement Gap

  1. No, no, no! Students need to be able to memorize facts and figures for their lives in the 21st century. I know this because it is the complete focus of the “excellent” school system in my county and the standardized tests required in my state.

    But seriously, I need to check out the book. It sounds like it articulates what I’ve been trying to tell my school system and the people around me for a while now. All the schools are doing is producing assembly line workers (and no offense meant to assembly line workers, but those jobs are going away). Unfortunately, I think the schools in this country were lagging behind to begin with and then NCLB sent them into a downward spiral where the only goal is to get high test scores.


  2. Assembly line workers yes….but the overall goal is also to make EVERYONE university potentials. And to my mind, university isn’t all it’s cracked up to be any more.

    Somedays I look in the mirror and don’t even recognize myself anymore because I used to be a parent who would only accept university as the ultimate educational goal for my child. But since she started school and I started reading and getting a reality check about school….I’m not so sure anymore. What’s her school really teaching her? What is the experience with school doing to her growth and development?

    Could a university track…actually stunt her growth as a human being?


  3. PsychMom — I’ve been wondering about this too. We’re starting the application process to get my older daughter into her next private school (the one she’s in now ends at 6th grade).

    I really wonder what the college landscape will look like when my daughter is done with high school. The middle and professional class are being hollowed out in the US, and I don’t see the economy getting really better (including jobs) for many years to come.

    I don’t see how we can continue with the system we have now, with professional-class kids and parents driving themselves berserk trying to get the kid into a few highly competitive colleges that cost a fortune to attend. It used to be that the prize at the end of all this was a high-paying job. Even if you think that’s worth sacrificing your child’s mental health for, the bottom line is that those high-paying jobs are evaporating.

    When we start seeing large numbers of these kids, who have been stressing themselves out for years, graduate from high-status colleges with piles of debt that they can’t pay off, and then come home to live in their parents’ basement, we might see a real change in our culture.

    There was an article in the NYTimes recently that said, among other things, that in the future there will be two kinds of jobs: those that can be outsourced, and those that can’t. I have a nephew who chose to go to trade school and train to be an auto mechanic instead of going to college. He graduated and walked right into a job in a field he loves. How many young people can say that?

    Education has a value beyond money, and beyond jobs, but it’s not worth starting your adult life in bankruptcy.


  4. Do I want my daughter to be one of those students who raises her hand at the end of a lecture only to ask, “Do we have to know all that stuff for the exam?” or..”How much is this project worth towards my final mark?”

    Do I want my daughter to get into that head space of choosing a program based on how much money she can make? It’s so hollow. And joyless.

    And I’m not that airy-fairy that “all I want is for her to be happy”…. but I think life should offer more than a job.


  5. FedUp Mom, great points (as always). I feel it very keenly that children are being schooled with the notion that there is but one definition of a successful life and furthermore, that there are a limited amount of “slots” for success and they better get in there and get theirs! Why do we have this culture of “not enough”? Why are we not teaching them that a degree is commendable whether it be from a community college, an Ivy League University, or anywhere in between? As we stress the value of education, can we also reassure them that everyone has a place and a purpose? That, to me, should be the real spirit of no child “left behind”…


  6. Wow, Ladies! You have addressed all of my concerns, beautifully. I wholeheartedly agree, with all of your sentiments.

    I’m going to add this book, to my list of “must reads”.


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