Curiosity and Imagination are Survival Skills

I’m loving the new Iowa Future website. In the Overview section, it explains how we can’t teach to our past, but to our students’ future: “That is why Iowa Future is promoting the need for innovation in education, sharing ideas from across the state and nation, and highlighting the work underway to prepare for the future, to help all students realize success and possess the knowledge and skills to be ready for tomorrow, not yesterday.”

On a post yesterday at Iowafuture.org there was an interview with Tony Wagner, author of The Global Achievement Gap. On the video, addressing Iowan citizens, he explained that to be ready for college or the workforce, our students all need to be lifelong learners and active and informed citizens. The following are the “Seven Survival Skills” our students need, according to Tony Wagner:

1. Critical thinking
2. Collaboration across networks & leading by influence
3. Agility and adaptability
4. Initiative and entrepreneurialism
5. Ability to access and analyze information
6. Effective oral and written communication
7. Most importantly, curiosity and imagination

In addition to these intellectual survival skills, Wagner reminds his listeners that the habits of the heart have always, and will continue to be, important: The qualities of empathy, moral courage, and a strong work ethic are skills of the heart.

Wagner said we need to develop core competencies and work to teach and test them. Most countries leading the way in education have already been doing this. In Iowa, we are not. An example he used is that the Iowa Test of Basics Skills does not even attempt to test whether our students are critical thinkers.

His talk made me open the Iowa Core Curriculum website and take a look around. I quickly found evidence of the first six survival skills in the sections on Literacy, Employability Skills, and Technology Literacy.

I guess I wasn’t surprised that I did not find evidence of the seventh—curiosity and imagination—the skill he describes in the video as “most important.” Am I wrong? I hope so.

Is curiosity and imagination a standard—either explicitly or implied—in the Iowa Core Curriculum? Is curiosity and imagination in any state or country’s curriculum?

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