Thursday, January 15, 2009

Closing the Innovation Gap: New Book Embraces a Complete Curriculum—Including the Arts

I just finished an important new book: Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy. The author is Judy Estrin, who has founded a number of techology enterprises and served as Chief Technology Officer for Cisco Systems.

Similar to John Kao's Innovation Nation, the book looks broadly at our nations's "Innovation Ecosystem," including education, and outlines a direction for U.S. leadership in a global economy driven by innovation.

Estrin joins the call for increasing our ranks of STEM professionals. But she also says this:
“Improvements in math and science should not be made by sacrificing other subjects. Learning about literature, history, and the arts encourages curiosity, creativity, collaboration, and communication, all of which are essential skills for potential innovators."
"To cultivate next generation innovators," says Estrin, "the most important skill we need to teach our children is how to learn." (Note to Fordham's Gadflies: She says most important skill, not only skill.

She also quoted another technology leader who shares her views, John Seely Brown:
"If I had to teach creative problem solving would I go to mathematics, physics, or engineering? No. “I would go to history and art for lessons in moral development. Those are the domains that build the aesthetics and sensibilities for the kinds of thinking we need."
After critiquing NCLB, she said:
“In an era when we talk so much about Web site personalization, we are not giving our children the opportunity to develop as individuals. We need students who are solidly grounded in the fundamentals, but also generations of innovators who discovered their passion by being exposed to a broad range of human creativity and knowledge in school. We will not lead in the future by producing a nation of robots.”

For more information, see Estrin's Web site. See John Kao's Web site for more about Innovation Nation.

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