Why innovation is critical

October 21, 2014 • Ted Kolderie

Just too late . . . just after my book arrived from the printer’s . . . I came across Paul Kennedy’s Engineers of Victory. I would love to have been able to include what he wrote about the critical role of innovation in winning World War II: It is so on-point with what I was trying to say about the need for innovation in education. I did pick up the story in a Commentary I wrote for Education Week, that appeared September 24. Here’s an earlier, somewhat different, version of that commentary, or see the first few paragraphs below.

Education might learn something, too, from Walter Isaacson’s just-released history of ‘the digital revolution’. The Innovators offers a fascinating look at the revolution in our system for handling information; everything from computing to communications. Think about how his description of this successful system changing contrasts with what passes for change in our ‘learning system’.

As always, I’d be interested in your comments; reactions.


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To reach any goal, the key question is always: How?

How? was the question during World War II. Roosevelt and Churchill had their grand strategy — to supply Britain from factories in North America, to bomb Germany night and day, to open a second front in western Europe. But early 1943 was a dark time. Ships were being sunk, bombers shot down at unsustainable rates. Winning would depend on figuring out how to get ships safely past the U-boats, how to provide fighter cover for the bombers over Germany, how to land an army on a hostile defended shore.

How? is the question, too, for education policy. It’s fine to say we’ll close achievement gaps, make graduates college-ready, raise standards, enforce accountability and draw top candidates into teaching. But stating objectives does not make things happen. There has to be a How. And education policy is still searching for its ‘how’.

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