When many of our best thinkers think about how to make creative and innovative thinking part of our schools, they automatically think of Montessori classrooms.
From an interview with Cathy Davidson in Salon:
In the book, you have this fascinating statistic that 65 percent of kids born today will have careers that don’t exist yet. Right now, under No Child Left Behind, the school system puts tremendous emphasis on standardized multiple choice tests, which, as you point out, don't exactly train kids to think creatively about the technological future.
The whole point of standardized testing was invented in 1914 and modeled explicitly as a way to process all these immigrants who were flooding into America at the same time as we were requiring two years of high school, and men were off at war and women were working in factories. The multiple choice test is based on the assembly line – what’s fast, what’s machine readable, what can be graded very, very rapidly. It’s also based on the idea of objectivity and that there's a kind of knowledge that has a right answer. If you chose a right answer, you’re done.
It's really only in the last 100 years that we’ve thought of learning in that very quantifiable way. We’re now in an era where anybody can find out anything just by Googling. So the real issue is not how fast can I choose a fact A, B, C or D. Now if I Google an answer I’ve got thousands of possibilities to choose from. How do you teach a kid to be able to make a sound judgment about what is and what isn’t reliable information? How do you synthesize that into a coherent position that allows you to make informed decisions about your life?
In other words, all of those things we think of as school were shaped for a vision of work and productivity and adulthood that was very much an industrial age of work, productivity and adulthood. We now have a pretty different idea of work, productivity and adulthood, but we’re still teaching people using the same institutionalized forms of education.
So what do we do to change that?
First I’d get rid of end-of-grade tests. They demotivate learning, in boys especially. Establish more challenge-based problem-solving kinds of education. This is hardly revolutionary. Montessori schools do this. I would like to see more attention paid to how you go from thinking something to making something.