I recently wrote a tweet to Diane Ravitch: @DianeRavitch big business needs creative innovators not test taking automatons
I received a reply back from from Mike Somers: Mike_Somers
The reference that Mike pointed to turned out to be an article that Professor Zhao wrote in May 2006. In the article he states the following: Creativity cannot be taught, but it can be killed
I found it amazing that this article was written over four years ago because it seems to me that the debate about testing and now the firing of teachers in the U.S. who do not get their students to achieve a certain level in tests is testimony to Professor Zhao’s warning that the competitiveness of the country in a world economy is very much based upon a diverse curriculum that allows for flexibility, freedom and above all innovation and creativity.
It is the need for creativity that every nation should be aiming at developing in their youth in today’s “flat” global economy. Zhao has written in depth about the way that the rigid standardised testing/exam structure of China and other powerful economies like Korea has been reversed in the past few years because they see the need to allow creativity to flourish. I thought it was interesting in the article that he states:
Sim Wong Hoo, founder and CEO of Singapore-based Creative Technology, pointed out this very fact. When asked in an interview with Newsweek about the advantages and disadvantages of having his company based in Singapore, Hoo answered,
The advantage is we come from a very conscientious culture. You tell our people what to do, they’ll follow the rules, they’ll do it. The downside is they are not as creative. We fixed that by having a U.S.-based R&D team that’s doing more advanced research. (Levy, 2005)
I am constantly amazed at the power of innovation that I see stemming from the U.S. I see all types of technological developments that seem light years ahead of where we are here in the United Kingdom where I live. I find it hard to believe that a nation that has developed and financed such cutting edge developments based upon the freedom of powerful thinkers to be able to take their sometimes weird and wonderful ideas and make them a reality is now following such a strict and narrow path that Professor Zhao warned about over four years ago.
It seems to me that the only people who will gain from this continuing approach is America’s competitors. Maybe it is the inevitable end of their century of power and world dominance.. it seems a shame though that the nation that has driven through the significant changes that has ushered us into the digital age is about to surrender its dominance by its own lack of foresight.
There is a certain irony as well that Professor Zhao, born into a peasant background in China and now a distinguished Professor of Education in Michigan U.S.A. is the person who is sounding out the warnings for his adopted country who seem unable to listen and act upon them.