National Standards are the Wrong Bet: Interview with Professor Yong Zhao

Yong Zhao
Yong Zhao books

Yong Zhao is a Foundation Distinguished Professor in the School of Education at the University of Kansas. He is also a professorial fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Health and Education Policy, Victoria University in Australia. He previously served as the Presidential Chair and Director of the Institute for Global and Online Education in the College of Education, University of Oregon, where he was also a Professor in the Department of Educational Measurement, Policy, and Leadership. Visit his site at: zhaolearning.com.

Terrance Jackson: You begin your book, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, writing about Suhas Gopinath, an entrepreneur who started a company at the age of 14. Why is this an important story about education?
Yong Zhao: It is important for three reasons. First, it says that young children, regardless of their background, can become great individuals with a global impact, thus education should focus on helping children achieve that potential. Second, it tells us current education is not helping young people like Suhas to become great individuals, as Suhas became what he became outside school or by not attending school. Third, Suhas represents what we need in the future–entrepreneurially-minded individuals who create jobs instead of employment-minded individuals who keep looking for jobs that may not exist.

TJ: In an 1995 interview, Steve Jobs said:
Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.
Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.
Would you like to comment on this quote?
YZ: Love this quote. I always believe that each and every child has the potential to be great. They do not walk into a life created by others, they are the creators of their own life. This is the point that I elaborate in my upcoming book Teach for Greatness.

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Everyone Can Create

Kevin Ashton - How to Fly a Horse

The encouraging part is that everyone can create, and we can show that fairly conclusively. The challenging part is that there is no magic moment of creation. Creators spend almost all their time creating, persevering despite doubt, failure, ridicule, and rejection until they succeed in making something new and useful. There are no tricks, shortcuts, or get-creative-quick schemes. The process is ordinary, even if the outcome is not.
Creating is not magic but work….
The best artists, scientists, engineers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and other creators are the ones who keep taking steps by finding new problems, new solutions, and then new problems again. The root is innovation is exactly the same as it was when our species was born: looking at something and thinking, “I can make this better….”
The creativity myth confuses having ideas with the actual work of creating….
The best way to create is to work alone and evaluate solutions as they occur. The worst way to create is to work in large groups and defer criticism. Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs’s cofounder at Apple and the inventor of its first computer, offers the same advice: “Work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team….
The vast majority—98 percent—of teachers say creating is so important that it should be taught daily, but when tested, they nearly always favor less creative children over more creative children.
[This] effect is not restricted to schools, and it persists into adulthood. Decision makers and authority figures in business, science, and government all say they value creation, but when tested, they do not value creators.
Why? Because people who are more creative also tend to be more playful, unconventional, and unpredictable, and all of this makes them harder to control. No matter how much we say we value creation, deep down, most of us value control more. And so we fear and favor familiarity. Rejecting is a reflex.
How a Fly a Horse
By Kevin Ashton

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