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Doing better than Knowing

Bear with me cool kids, it’s about to get nerdy for a few minutes.

The other day, I read this article on CBS about a pilot program that five states are adopting in their schools, adding 300 classroom hours to their curriculum.  The intention is to propel student achievement, and make America a player in the global academic conversation.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said something very interesting in response, “I’m convinced the kind of results we’ll see over the next couple of years I think will compel the country to act in a very different way.”

That’s a telling line.  To me, it seems that we are having the wrong conversation when talking about our global academic ranking, because America’s problem isn’t educational.  It’s behavioral.

It’s not that our students are inferior in the capacity for knowledge, nor application.  It’s not that our teachers are doing terrible jobs (granted, some may be) or that the schools are taking short-cuts to increase their funding (granted, some are).  Our schools levy more ambitious work loads than ever before, greater access is afforded to impoverished students than ever before, and more intentional systems of measurement and training are in place than ever before.  We invest more in our K-12 education system than most other developed countries (source).  And, incredibly, our testing scores aren’t much different from the scores of students in the 60’s, when we were at the pinnacle of outlandish innovation and unabashed ambition.

Our problem isn’t so easily solved as assigning more homework and standardizing more tests because, America’s real “educational” problem is motivation.

Namely, will the next generation continue to carry the innovation torch when they’ve had everything handed to them, with more help and opportunities than every before?  Will they find creative ways to forge ahead and exhibit a tenacity for problem solving in a world that is catered to them?  Will our technological advancements today actually hinder technological advancements tomorrow?  What if learning more information isn’t actually the solution to becoming smarter or more successful?

This is where I find hope.  Our students are not damaged, nor are they a disappointment.  I’ve met so many high schoolers and college students who are driven, ambitious, and more passionate about things than I ever was at their age.  They are smart, well-connected, savvy, and ready to do extraordinary things.  They are positioned to leverage their opportunities, and are unsettled by status quo answers and expectations.  They are easily unsettled, a bit unnerved, and a tad naive.

This is where we pick up a few important lessons for your dream:

1.  Tenacity is more important than knowledge.  Yes, information is important.  Do your homework and know your stuff.  But, more important is the desire to go.  There comes a point when you have to take a chance, and just go.

2.  Doing is what will separate you.  Lots of people have the same opportunities and skills that you have.  And lots of people will stay put.  You may have all the talent and all the connections, but unless you’re going you are just a face in a crowd.

3.  Courage is required.  The odds may be stacked against you;  there may be lots of hurdles to jump over, and lots of oceans to cross.  Be brave, get creative, and forge ahead.  Keep your eyes ahead, embrace the journey, and refuse to settle.  This is your dream and your responsibility, don’t let anyone else tell you what you should do with it.

We are in challenging times.  We can either scapegoat, hide behind excuses, busy ourselves answering the wrong questions, or forge ahead with creativity and resolve.  Let’s be ambitious enough to offer new solutions.

Comment below and tell me;  What’s the most important thing you’re learning as you chase your dream?