Dan Pink is hot these days within NAIS– the keynote speaker in March for the annual convention, he was excellent. His book is a very user-friendly introduction of what to think about when considering what the fast changing world will demand of us in the years to come.
August 29, 2008
The book, A Whole New Mind, has two subtitles: first was Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, and then the paperback went to something I like less, Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future.
We read it for summer faculty reading in Summer 2006, only months after the books publication, and I was proud to be in early on this curve. I was greatly energized and enthused, and jokingly suggested we change our name, in the way that schools are named for educational philosophers, i.e. Montesorri schools, from Saklan Valley School to the Pink School of Saklan Valley. (It didn’t fly– his name doesn’t really work in this mode).
I didn’t know what resistance I’d encounter– but the primary opposition was from some left-leaning teachers, young, who seemed too worried that this was combatively competitive book: we need to teach kids how to compete in the economy and let that drive our curriculum. I tried to reply to the contrary: it offers a very holistic, healthily balanced response the anxieties of a changing world. Some seem to say that the competition from abroad demands we teach students ever more math, science, and computer programming, and while Pink doesn’t say we shouldn’t, he does insist we think about this more broadly than by any narrow and rigid thinking.
High Concept, High Touch is Pink’s reduction, and I love it. I could imagine putting it above the gates: enter here for an education that teaches broad, rich, creative and analytical thinking, and teaches care and compassion. These are the skills required for the 21st century, because they are what cannot be easily outsourced or easily automated. Schools can do well to regularly ask of themselves what more can we do to teach our students to think larger and care better.
The book, which is just a treat to read, more so than almost any others in its class, breaks it down further into six “senses.” I think Pink flopped on that word choice– sense doesn’t quite get it, aptitude maybe would be better, or skill, or capability. Here’s the list: Design, Story, Empathy, Play, Symphony, and Meaning. For each, Pink, in an almost impish tone full of vigor and humor, shares 5-10 distinct activities which will strengthen this sense.
For each, we at Saklan considered how we already teach them, and then brainstormed what more could done. Six months later, I took a template from Pat Bassett, in which he cited examples of best practice in each of the six senses from his observations at NAIS schools, and adapted it. For each, I inserted examples from our own school, and suggestions how we might extend it, and then shared it with faculty, board, parent, and community groups. (thanks Pat). Using Pat’s template (just download it from his site), this is an easy and fun thing to do, and makes for a really engaging presentation. Meanwhile, I think that by highlighting especially successful applications, highlighting them in front of large audiences, there is some likelihood of reinforcing what is already done, and stimulating further development.
The particular list I like, but don’t love. I think symphony is poorly labeled and meaning a bit new-agey and abstract. But read the book, read it in a group, read it along with Gardener, maybe Sternberg, and then as a school community generate your own lists of 21st century success aptitudes. Pink is a great stepping off place.