In what sounds like a three stooges routine, the three "learning specialists" are alarmed by what they see as a trend toward academic achievement:
Perhaps now is a good time to ask this question: What are schools supposed to do for our children? As learning specialists, we see an alarming trend: Our education system increasingly is focusing not on developing children’s aptitude for learning—their ability to absorb new information quickly and solve problems creatively—but on their academic achievements—their mastery of particular subjects and skills as proven by performance on standardized tests.Silly me. I would have thought that academic achievement demonstrates at least an "ability to absorb new information quickly," the purported goal of these specialists.
The authors of the anti-achievement piece do manage to offer "sobering" examples of imperial decline due to memorization and academic achievement. The cause-and-effect scenario painted here does seem a bit fishy to me. I kind of doubt that China went into a tailspin because a few mandarins had the ability memorize Confucian philosophy. Would we as a society suddenly have to live in caves in the unthinkable event that some of our bureaucrats (say, at the board of ed) suddenly had the urge to memorize a few poems by Whitehead and Tennyson?
Snippet from the trio's commentary:
This is a serious concern for our kids and our society. History offers sobering examples of what can happen when standardized achievements are elevated over open-ended abilities.The essence of the anti-academic achievement position as far as I can distill it is a false dichotomy between learning academic subject matter on the one hand and "creativity, innovation, and independent thinking" on the other. Educationists worship at at the altar of ignorance in the name of "creativity" but ignorance is not a prerequisite for "creativity".
During the 18th and 19th centuries, imperial China—once the most technologically advanced civilization in the world—fell into decline as power passed into the hands of a mandarin class of bureaucrats selected for their ability to memorize Confucian philosophy. More recently, Japanese authorities have begun dismantling an education system that long relied on a uniform national curriculum and after-hours classes at juku “cram schools.” The Japanese believe this approach has stifled creativity, innovation, and independent thinking, contributing to the stagnation of the Japanese economy.
We worry that America is heading down a similar path. If promoting our children’s achievements becomes our sole focus, both our children and our society will suffer.