Education must fast forward to the 21st century and quickly, says Tony Wagner, if our students are to be competitive in the global knowledge economy. Wagner is the author of the bestseller, The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need—And What We Can Do About It, and his message is urgent: our nation’s schools are dangerously obsolete. Instead of teaching students to be critical thinkers and problem-solvers, we are asking them to memorize facts for multiple choice tests. The following is an abridged version of our interview with Tony Wagner.
Q: Can you explain the Key Survival Skills you describe in your book, beginning with Critical Thinking and Problem Solving?
Tony Wagner: There are seven key or discreet skills that all young people are going to need today and they are the same skills college teachers say are critical and so often missing.
The first is critical thinking and problem solving — the ability to think out of the box, to look at connections, to weigh evidence, to look at problems or issues in new ways and to understand the interrelationships. The best companies today need every single employee to think continuously about how to improve their product, the process, or their service, or even to create new ones altogether.
Q: The second key skill: “Collaboration Across Networks.”
Tony Wagner: It’s actually collaboration across networks and leading by influence — they go together. The folks at IBM explained to me how they solve problems by creating “cross functional teams,” with people from different areas of specialization who work together virtually from different parts of the world. So to be effective in a team like that, you have to appreciate cultural differences and be respectful.