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Innovation: The Key to America’s Leading Edge

Billie Jean Knight

Those who insist America’s position in the world is being diminished by global competition bombard us daily in the media. Fear, doubt, and worry are generated by a panic-stricken fear mongers who blame America’s schools for failing to prepare students to rise to the competitive challenge.

I take issue with the idea that America’s schools are failing in general, although many struggle.

I do believe that policymakers have failed to define and support what students need to be able to know and do for a newly defined global economy.

Yes, mastery of reading, writing, math, science, and social and historical perspective are of critical importance. However, these are only prerequisites for what is truly needed to be ultimately prepared.

The obsession with tangible low-level skills required to “pass the test” has driven American school systems out of curriculum balance to abandon important elements that made our nation a superpower in the first place: creativity and innovation.

I have no problem with assessing our students’ academia, but it is not the only measure of ultimate success.

The visual and performing arts are the best places to learn and practice the intangible and essential creative inspiration that will propel America’s redefined, yet historically-based place as the leaders in innovation in the world.

How do we get back to this basic? It is a fundamental, yet complex path. However, policymakers across the country must shift paradigms to better address the following idea:

America can only find its leaders’ edge by defining and supporting what’s central to national long-term success—inspired creativity that leads to true innovation in every walk of American life.

Then, policymakers must provide tangible ways to ensure every child develops these skills in order to find their way in the uncharted waters of tomorrow.

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