Are We Preparing Our Children for the Conceptual Age?

Neil Postman describes education as both an “engineering problem, and a metaphysical one…if the engineering part is given too much importance education will suffer.” Standardized testing has increased dramatically, while funding for arts programs and foundations have been drastically cut. This suggests a preference for analytical skills and a reliance on testing data as proof of knowledge, reducing education to a “preconceived ends of ‘covering’ curriculum or increasing the number of correct answers on a test.”

Public standardized education was created for the mechanical age of the Industrial Revolution where mechanical needs were at the forefront. With the abundance of mechanical jobs available in the U.S. this type of education could suffice and support a thriving middle class. However, today’s global community will give the mechanical jobs to the lowest bidder. We can accept the lower wage and get used to a lower standard of living or we can widen our educational scope to include creative, artistic and innovative knowledge that will ensure our place in the “rise of the creative class” marketplace where the new middle class will reap benefits. Today’s marketplace is global and the core educational requirements must include innovative, artistic and creative knowledge. Simply finding a correct answer on a test in mathematics and linguistics won’t ensure success in the newly “flattened” global marketplace. Today’s conceptual age requires both analytical skills and a broad comprehensive ability to create imaginatively in diverse groups.

Although today’s academic success is primarily measured by standardized test scores, Daniel Goleman states that the most critical element for a student’s success in school is an understanding of how to learn. Learning requires competence in the two kinds of intelligence: intellectual (left brained) and emotional (right brained). Emotional intelligence skills are synergistic with those of cognition and top performers possess both. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to “monitor and regulate one’s own and others’ feelings, and to use feelings to guide thought and action”. Emotional Intelligence encompasses five characteristics and abilities: 1) self-awareness:  knowing feelings and using them to guide decision making; 2) self-regulation: handling feelings so they enhance rather than interfere with the task at hand; 3) motivation:  using preferences to move and guide one towards goals; 4) empathy: recognizing feelings in others and tuning into their verbal and nonverbal cues; and 5) social skills: handling emotions in relationship interaction, conflict resolution, and negotiations.

To educate our children for work of the future, emotional literacy and artistic literacy are as important as cognitive literacy.

* Florida, Richard (2003) The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community, and Everyday Life, Basic Books.
* Goleman, D. (2006). The Socially intelligent leader. Educational leadership, 64(1), 76-81. Retrieved June 25, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.
* Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence, New York, Bantam.
* Postman, Neil, (1996). The end of education: Redefining the value of school, New York: Vintage.

About Patricia Strickland

Patricia Strickland currently heads the Theater Department at a private high school in Ventura, California. Patti has a passion for empowering youth, and she is committed to the idea that teaching children to think creatively and globally is a critical element needed in order to foster the skills that will maintain economic competitiveness in tomorrow’s marketplace. She is currently exploring methods to introduce more emotional and artistic literacy into the educational system, working enthusiastically with fellow educators to create cross-curricular projects. Patti is an accomplished actress and director, is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and holds a BS in Interdisciplinary Studies from NYIT and a Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership from Gonzaga University.

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