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Sunday, January 30, 2011

What is Education About?

From the Instapundit I followed links to this exchange between Professor Larry Summers and Professor Amy Chau.  (For those avoiding the sensational, Professor Chau has been in the news recently about her new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, where she says no sleep-overs, no play dates, nothing less than "A"s.)

It was at the World Economic Forum, at Davos (Switzerland).  It was a dinner debate between the former Obama Economic Advisor Summers and the author Amy Chau.  Dr Summers suggested:
“In a world where things that require discipline and steadiness can be done increasingly by computers, is the traditional educational emphasis on discipline, accuracy and successful performance and regularity really what we want?” he asked.  Creativity, he said, might be an even more valuable asset that educators and parents should emphasize.  At Harvard, he quipped, the A students tend to become professors and the C students become wealthy donors.

“It is not entirely clear that your veneration of traditional academic achievement is exactly well placed,” he said to Ms. Chua.  “Which two freshmen at Harvard have arguably been most transformative of the world in the last 25 years?” he asked.  “You can make a reasonable case for Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, neither of whom graduated.”  Demanding tiger moms, he said, might not be very supportive of their kids dropping out of school.
Creativity?  Now there is a thought.  But, creativity needs a basis in facts and a certain amount of self-discipline.

How are we doing here in Lowell?

And do we agree more with Larry Summers or Amy Chau?

Regards  —  Cliff


Renee said...

School in of itself is a structured environment, what matters is how students can be creative in completely unstructured situations. Like a snow day!

Article from Newsweek last year.

C. Hazel said...

I heard an interview from her (Daily Show? Colbert? Don't remember) where she was making a point that some of her book is being misunderstood in the press. Part of her point (made with humor) is a recognition that her mother probably took things too far. She's defending the Tiger Mom concept, but also recognizing that it's manifestations in previous generations was a little ridiculous.

That being said - I think that the biggest thing misunderstood about the learning process is that we all learn differently.

Check out this program:

Downloadable mp3 file:

They feature a 'star' teacher and show that one of the things he does is recognize that there are differing types out there. I have no doubt that TigerMom method will accomplish something with almost everyone, but also that it will not show the full potential with many because strict goal setting and discipline isn't necessarily best for many personality types. It certainly doesn't describe Einstein's education or temperament for example.