Market-Driven Education

Seth Godin said this in a recent live Q&A for his new book What To Do When It’s Your Turn.

Markets tend to overpay for things that are short-term and easily measured. And just because the market decided to pay for it today doesn’t mean it’s important. […] Vincent Van Gogh basically sold no art during his lifetime. I am glad that he was not a short-term trader who decided he’d be better off digging ditches for a dollar an hour. Because when you dig ditches for a dollar an hour you get a dollar, and when you make a difference, the difference sits around for a really long time, paying you and the people around you.

Doesn’t this sound a lot like the current market-driven educational approach? In the last few years our state has implemented increasingly intense stat-based school review. The “educational dashboard” designed to rate school and teacher effectiveness is one example. Another is that in many schools, teacher effectiveness is determined to a large degree on the improvement of the class on a 30-question scantron test administered at the beginning and end of the term. That’s without even mentioning the high-stakes testing increasingly mandated state- and nation-wide.
All of this data is easy to measure – and doesn’t tell us what we need to know. Just because we can’t measure someone’s development on a chart doesn’t mean it’s not there.
With this focus, we are telling our kids over and over again that they should take the dollar and dig a ditch. We can’t measure creativity, so don’t be Van Gogh.


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