Book of the Month

Back to December 2015 Ed Reporter

Book of the Month

World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, Yong Zhao, Corwin Publishing, 2012, $29.95

Schoolchildren who used to love school now hate it and those as young as kindergarten are sobbing in frustration over Common Core testing. What Yong Zhao predicted would happen when Common Core, or “the wrong bet,” was instituted in schools has come to fruition.

Dr. Zhao was born and educated in China, where he lived until he began graduate studies in the U.S. He’s a full professor at the University of Oregon College of Education, a researcher, and a consultant who has published 20 books and over 100 articles.

Zhao wrote in 2012, “If the Common Core standards movement accomplishes its goal, America will have lost what the Chinese envy and admire.” China’s leaders now realize their “test-oriented education system” is a failure.

In 2010, only 1% of patents filed for or granted by leading patent offices outside China were granted to Chinese enterprises. Zhao continues, “50% of China-origin patents were granted to subsidiaries of foreign multinationals.” Zhao says that these results are due to the creativity-killing Chinese education system.

“What the Chinese find valuable in American education is a decentralized, autonomous system that does not have standards, uses multiple criteria for judging the value of talents, and celebrates individual differences,” says Zhao.

The author points out the folly that is Common Core, a bad choice because it devastates the “traditionally extremely decentralized education system,” and replaces it with “increased national control of what children should learn.”

Common Core and No Child Left Behind have narrowed curriculum and caused schools to teach only what will be tested. Breadth and depth of learning has suffered, as have teaching art, music, dance, and more.

As scores become the primary way to judge students, they suffer from the stress of high-stakes testing. Creative students who don’t test well are not only made to feel like failures, they become failures when good test scores are the only road to success.

Zhao says when our system allows individual students to find their passion at school, we are successful. Eliminating every means to succeed except testing is a fatal mistake that destroys children’s futures.

America is a highly creative nation; our education system works when we respect children and encourage curiosity and creativity. Zhao says we are successful when we “allow students to pursue activities and interests,” to “think for themselves,” and to “take risks.”