What is a Rigorous Education?

Thanks to Stephen, who got it from Vicky, I read Rigor Redefined by Tony Wagner.  It offers an interesting – if frightening – look at what we consider to be rigorous high school courses. It also offers a list of the things he thinks we should be teaching in schools today.

He outlines the seven skills he thinks we should be teaching young people today:

1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving…

2. Collaboration and Leadership…

3. Agility and Adaptability…

4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism…

5. Effective Oral and Written Communication…

6. Accessing and Analyzing Information…

7. Curiosity and Imagination…

That list of things seems pretty important to me.  Whether the list is complete or not, I don’t know.  There might be a few other things I would want students to learn.  But these are definitely a great start.

Along the way, Wagner makes a statement that some might consider startling:

Of the hundreds of classes that I’ve observed in recent years, fewer than 1 in 20 were engaged in instruction designed to teach students to think instead of merely drilling for the test.

His examples seem all too real. And I have heard stories that seem to corroborate his findings.  What about you?

He also says:

Although writing and speaking correctly are obviously important, the complaints I heard most frequently were about fuzzy thinking and young people not knowing how to write with a real voice.

As an ESL instructor, this question of “correct” English is an important one to me.  I have heard professors say that they can’t tell if a student’s thinking is fuzzy or not because the grammar is so bad, but for the most part I would agree that it is the content and the thinking evident in a paper that most people are concerned with.  But English instructors seem to spend more time focusing on the grammar and the form of the paper than on the content.  I guess it is easier to grade — Does it have 5 paragraphs?  Are there comma splices?  Do the subjects and verbs agree?  But what good is it to be able to write a perfect sentence or a perfect paper in English if you have nothing to say?

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