Lucky Me

I’ve had the True Privilege of reviewing galleys of two remarkable books in the last week. (I gave them both deserved over-the-top blurbs.) First up Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind.

Fundamental premise: “The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind—computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind—creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people—artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers—will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.” Pink makes a sound analytic argument for all this, based on the Rise of Asia and the New Technologies, among other things. One other zinger I cotton to: “The MFA is the new MBA.”

The other book is The Big Picture, from the person I consider to be the most innovative educator in America … Dennis Littky. Dennis considers the current school system a disaster. He’s working on a new model, piloted in Providence, RI, and now spinning out across the nation courtesy a big grant from the Gates Foundation. Littky’s work dovetails brilliantly with Pink’s. He believes we need to get beyond the rote learning and teach-to-test shackles … and get kids to engage in activities that mean something to them. Consider: “From the media, we hear these great tearjerker stories of kids who succeeded despite the odds. But all of our kids are instead facing the odds of an education system that is all wrong. The odds are against them because the system works against them instead of with them. … I see it every day: kids who people have dismissed as ‘dumb in math’ or ‘uninterested in science’ or ‘nonreaders’ doing incredible things in these exact same areas because they were (finally) allowed to start with something they were already interested in. A 9th-grade kid who ‘hates science’ sees a movie about freezing people, then decides to read a college biology text on cryogenics, and then gives a presentation on it that blows your socks off.”

In trying to get the two authors together, I claimed that the issue they address is, over the long-ish term, as important as terrorism. (If we get this wrong, the economy tanks and our international “standing” tanks with it.”) I guess we’ve got two decades to get this right. You’ll find posted, as of today, a Special PowerPoint presentation—“Pink & Littky” that gives you some highlights from both forthcoming books. I don’t think I’m crazy: I think this is the equal of security concerns … perhaps the ultimate security concern?