I didn’t get to see this morning the speech, but I did read the transcript, which left me feeling conflicted about our decision not to broadcast it. The majority of the speech confirmed me in my belief that its intended audience was not our students. It was a bit hokey in its stating the self-evident and the old-hat: that to be successful, you need to stay in school and work hard. I think our students know that, and they don’t need the President to remind them.
But, the speech had its strong moments (leaving me conflicted we missed it). Perseverence is essential, and his stories to this effect were meaningful. I appreciated his recognition that all of our students have their own unique passions, and our schooling needs to not limit itself to teaching them to fill in their gaps but to build upon their strengths: “I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself. Every single one of you has something that you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is.”
To this 21st century educator, who is worried that Obama’s Race to the Top standards will stifle creativity in the classroom, Obama rightly spoke to the sophisticated skills (not just basic skills!) our students need to master:
You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical-thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.
Let’s make sure these skills don’t get lost in the shuffle; let’s work to develop new ways to measure these things to ensure that we hold ourselves accountable for them, because yet another round of standardized multiple choice testing isn’t going to do it.