Dr. Slammy in 2008: A thinkpower curriculum for the 21st Century
Hi. I’m Sam Smith, and I’m running for president on a platform that stresses education’s critical role in solving our nation’s problems and assuring a future of universal opportunity for all citizens. Today I’m introducing my platform plank on curriculum, a cornerstone concern for any productive educational system.
One size does not fit all. It goes without saying that we must emphasize education in mathematics and the sciences, as these skills provide the foundation we need to compete in a world of increasing technical complexity. Language, writing and communication skills, which have been sadly de-emphasized in the past 20 years, are also essential. Somewhere along the line we’ve come to accept the idea that these faculties aren’t all that important in our commercial culture, but ask any senior executive how plummeting written and verbal communication deficits are affecting business.Additionally, we must strongly emphasize the teaching of critical thinking. The Millennial generation of students, who currently range from 7 to 27 or so, have been victimized by cultural dynamics and educational approaches that leave them severely lacking in thinking and problem solving skills. Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do to quickly remedy this, and we’re going to pay a steep price for it in the next 20-30 years. However, we can assure that future generations aren’t similarly sabotaged.
Our curriculum will foster generations of students who, if dropped into novel, unfamiliar, even hostile situations, with few tools at their disposal, can nonetheless think their way to success. The story of past American triumph has always been about resourcefulness, and a renewed commitment to inculcating ingenuity will assure countless future chapters in that story.
Critical thinking is also our best hedge against tyranny and corruption. Our current administration has done all in its power to promote vocational learning while stifling the Liberal Arts, and this is a strategy that brazenly serves one master â€“ the economic power elite. It has encouraged all manner of abuses in its quest for a “do, don’t think” society that profits the haves and assures that the have-nots stay in their place. A strong commitment to teaching social studies, civics and history will go a long way toward inoculating young Americans against home-grown despotism, and curricular elements that shine the light on propagandist communication techniques â€“ both verbal and visual â€“ will diminish the manipulative impact of our nation’s merchants of spin and disinformation.
Our curriculum will provide significant support for the development of creative and artistic faculties. While legions of brilliant, Nobel-worthy scientists are critical to our future greatness, a truly bright society cherishes and cultivates excellence across all human endeavors. The Arts and Humanities provide tremendous insights into the truth of our condition, and we should strive to be a nation whose collective right brain is as spectacularly brilliant as its left.
Finally, the simple reality of human society is that not everybody is destined for leadership, scientific accomplishment or artistic immortality. America has always thrived on the back of a dedicated working class, and despite the observation above about the power elite’s lust for a do, don’t think society, we in fact need people who do. Our educational system should account for those who have neither the interest nor aptitude for advanced study, but who are better suited for a career in industry or our surging service economy. These citizens should have access to exceptional vocational and technical training, which will be required if we are to compete with offshore competitors like India and China.
However, these sorts of decisions should be made in a good faith attempt to allow all citizens to seek satisfaction at their best, most productive level. The default goal of the system should be to help up, not hold down.
My administration will have no illusions about being lauded in the short term. However, decades of profoundly counter-productive policies have ushered us to the point where we desperately need leaders willing to be judged by those 50 years down the road instead of eight.