I recently published an essay in the Wall Street Journal, which you will find in the Articles section of this website, as well. Without my knowledge or permission, the editors of the Journal gave it the title, “Educating The Next Steve Jobs.” Unfortunately, many of the resulting comments centered around Jobs’ character and whether he is a good model of an innovator. Others’ comments were equally surprising and disturbing. Here is what I wrote on the Journal website in reply:
“I am surprised by the number of comments about Steve Jobs’ character. As I explained in an earlier post, I did not choose the title of the article, and I frankly think it distracts from the point of the article. Children are born curious, creative, imaginative. The point is: What we do as parents and educators matters enormously in the continued development of these traits.
I am equally surprised at the number of people who have suggested that schools cannot or should not develop the skills of young people to innovate in whatever they do. Of course, young people need to master the basics. But how you teach them to read and to write, as examples, matters enormously. You can either stimulate a love of reading and writing by encouraging students to read and write about things they care about, or you can have them merely do test prep. The latter not only stifles curiosity and imagination, it dramatically increases boredom and disaffection from schooling. And I speak as one who taught high school English to both privileged and disadvantaged students for twelve years.
Finally, I am surprised by the number of political comments–to the effect that the government is stifling innovation and will muffle anyone who dares to speak out or be unconventional. I am not meaning to pick political sides, but I observe that this week Facebook–founded by a Harvard dropout who is now the world’s youngest billionaire–just bought Instragram, which was also founded by a couple of 20-somethings, for $1 billion. Big brother has’t squashed innovation yet.
In researching and writing my book, Creating Innovators, I discovered that many young people today want to be innovators–and our economy desperately needs more innovators, not replicators, in every domain, not just STEM. The question is: Will we as parents, teachers, mentors, and employers recognize and support their aspirations? And will we reinvent an education system for the 21st century that teaches and assesses the skills that matter most–as the schools I named and others are doing? The future of a generation and our country are at stake.”