There are 3 books that give great insight and perspective to use as an administrator. There are Catching Up or Leading the Way by Young Zhao, Out of Our Minds by Ken Robinson, Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch.
The first book I read was Catching Up or Leading the Way. Zhao does not believe in raising expectations, rather he focuses on the positive attributes of American schools – our spirit of creativity and innovation. I agree with his philosophy because it takes new eyes and innovation to make change.
In Ken Robinson’s Out of Our Minds, he emphasizes the importance being creative and using innovation in your daily life and decision-making. When children are asked if they are creative, they usually answer yes. When adults are asked the same question, they usually answer no. That is the big issue according to Robinson. He interviewed the men who began The Blue Man Group; a trio of blue, bald-headed silent performers. Being creative is a core value of The Blue Man Group philosophy. They believe everyone must have the opportunity to express their ideas. After their huge success on stage, and starting their own families, they decided to start a school based on their same creative philosophies. They call it The Blue School and they have evolved to a two part education model: core curriculum and creativity and expression. This could be a perfect model for American schools to follow as it educates the whole child: social and emotional. This creative philosophy rings true in Robinson’s statement, “We cannot meet the challenges of the 21st century with the educational ideologies of the nineteenth (pg. 283).”
The book that I connected with most was Ravitch’s Reign of Error. She gives powerful evidence of how our current education system and policies, like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, are not working for today’s students. Ravitch does offer many solutions to our problematic educational system. They include:
- access to medical care, nutrition for all pregnant women
- pre-kindergarten for all children, more to learn basic social skills, the opportunity to begin to develop background knowledge and vocabulary through the integration of joyful learning and play
- in early elementary grades, teachers setting age-appropriate goals
- in upper elementary and middle school, a balanced curriculum that includes science, literature, social sciences and foreign languages, with a rich arts program and access to physical education every day
- teachers who write their own tests, and limiting standardized tests primarily to diagnostic purposes
- a commitment to building a strong education profession
- schools having “the resources they need for the students they enroll” (p.8)
- as a society, committing through goals, strategies and programs to reducing poverty and racial segregation
On this last point Ravitch states something very important to ponder:
Those who start life with the fewest advantages need even smaller classes, even more art, science, and music to engage them, to spark their creativity, and to fulfill their potential. (p. 8)