Bill Gates has said one of the most important issues facing our nation is how we educate our young. But something is missing in the national education debate, and sadly, we have been at a standstill for decades. Educators have been arguing with administrators about what to do. Now parents, politicians and pundits have joined the fray.
Recently, thoughtful attempts have been made to analyze where we are and what's gone away. As Joel Klein, former NYC Chancellor of Education put it in a recent book review, "The fight over public education is as polarized as it is consequential. There appears to be a general sense of agreement that the results we are getting are woefully inadequate, especially given the demands that a high-tech, global economy will place on our future work force. Nevertheless, there's a sharp disagreement over exactly what to do."
There are many problems and just as many proposed solutions as Klein knows well. For whatever reason, however, all seem to ignore the argument that the truth -- the real solutions -- are probably somewhere in the middle of the discussion. There are issues with teachers -- particularly tenure and the difficulty of measuring performance, and with the curriculum itself, including the definition of what education is or is not supposed to do, and the way education is accomplished or delivered. Nonetheless, no one seem to talk about the vital connections between creativity and commerce nor the critical role of the community.
The new thinking skills that are necessary to succeed in the 21st century workplace demand creativity and innovation, for these are the ingredients to success and survival in the new global economy.
Importantly, in addition to what happens in school, the community must be involved in and committed to building a vibrant culture, insuring availability of cheap and accessible broadband and tolerant and livable places.
And, if we are to be competitive globally, commerce has a huge stake. Corporations not only need people with the new thinking skills, but as the Conference Board's report Ready to Innovate makes clear, educators and executives need to align their corporate goals with the curriculum kids are living with and provide the environment that nurtures, retains and attracts the bright and creative people that generate new patents and inventions, innovative world-class products and services and the finance and marketing plans to support them.
As the economy turns once again in a positive way -- and it will -- creative thinking, creative products, creative services and creativity in all a community does will make our communities unique in the world.
There are no simple solutions. There is no silver bullet. It will take a village. It will take all of us.