Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, and Yong Zhao, associate dean for global education at the University of Oregon’s College of Education, agree that labor markets continue to go global and that it is unclear what new jobs could emerge for today’s students, raising the question of how best to educate students today. In a Washington Post blog, however, Tucker challenges Zhao’s claim that “standards mean standardization…[which] lead to an inability to produce creative solutions.”
Tucker, instead, argues that “without broad agreement on a well-designed and internationally benchmarked system of standards, we have no hope of producing a nation of students who have the kind of skills, knowledge and creative capacities the nation so desperately needs.” And, he’s right. Standards are just that –just standards. Any set of standards–no matter their quality–can fail to improve instruction if they are not taught through high quality content. Curriculum, then, seals the marriage between great standards and great content.
Helping grow creative thinking young people is the job of a rich curriculum tied to standards that benchmark learning. The quality of texts selected, both literary and informational, the examination and analysis of works of art, the challenge and appropriateness of student assignments all blend together to produce rigorous learning with stimulating materials so students can gain knowledge while thinking about big ideas and universal themes. That is where creativity, innovation – “play” as Tucker and Zhao agree – will come from.
Providing such a solid school experience ensures that whatever jobs surface during the rest of this century, students will be prepared to apply the knowledge they absorbed and the thinking they developed in school to succeed in the global workplace.