Wit & Wisdom

Game Changers & Tales of Triumph and Woe

What Students (Really) Need to Know

CJ Westerberg, September 28, 2012 11:24 AM


Orig. Published 1/2011

"A good rule of thumb for many things in life holds that
things take longer to happen than you think they will,
and then happen faster than you thought they could."
- Lawrence Summers

by C.J. Westerberg

Do check out The New York Times' Education Life today, which has some provocative reads.
Here are glimpses of my top picks, although this particular special edition had far more articles of interest than the usual, so choosing wasn't a slam dunk. 
Lawrence "Larry" Summers, former president of Harvard, Treasury Secretary under President Clinton shares his six recommendations necessary for education in "What You (Really) Need to Know," based upon a speech he gave for TNYT Schools for Tomorrow Conference. 

Summers riffs about the importance of being able to process and use information, not just "factual mastery";  the increased necessity of the ability to collaborate; a surprising perspective on foreign language learning; support of the flipped class (although he doesn't call it as such);  the essential skill of understanding and analyzing data, and cosmopolitanism, along with references to Daniel Kahneman's tour de force book, "Thinking, Fast and Slow."

This makes it essential that the educational experience
breed cosmopolitanism -
that students have international experiences, and classes in the social sciences draw on examples from around the world.

-Lawrence Summers

As interesting are the comments since many convey an all-or-nothing position to his suggestions which is the way it seems to go in many education conversations these days. Examples of the latter may find one on the artificially created "side" for practice and mastery vs. hands-on constructivist learning, as if one precluded the other's use; for the idea of the flipped class or against the idea of lectures as a form of teaching or homework of any kind;  data as a viable tool for gaining additional insight vs. data as part of the evil empire, and so on.  You get the picture.

On another note, for those of us who are in an "always learning" mode, Patricia Cohen serves us, "A Sharper Mind, Middle Age and Beyond."  Whether we have to go to college to do this is the question and critique of the following "finding", but it just makes sense that we continue to learn new things:

As it turns out, one essential element of mental fitness has already been identified. "Education seems to be an elixir that can bring us a healthy body and mind throughout adulthood and even a longer life," says Margie E. Lachman, a psychologist at Brandeis University who specializes in aging. For those in midlife and beyond, a college degree appears to slow the brain's aging process by up to a decade, adding a new twist to the cost-benefit analysis of higher education -  for young students as well as those thinking about returning to school.

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It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
Leonardo da Vinci
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