January 11-13, 2012
Los Angeles Marriott Downtown, 333 South Figueroa Street
5:00 pm Registration & Cocktail Reception at the Marriott Downtown
6:00 pm Opening Address: Cultivating the 21st Century Mind
Dr. Harry Brighouse
Professor of Philosophy and Education Policy Studies
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Opening Address: Cultivating the 21st Century Mind
Dr. Harry Brighouse
Harry Brighouse, Professor of Philosophy and Education Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison kicked off the conference with his insights on “Cultivating the 21st Century Mind”. In his presentation, Brighouse held schools responsible for developing people who make independent judgments, who are capable of forming relationships, and who participate in the economy (for not only monetary purposes, but for the purpose of feeling valuable to society). According to Brighouse, the 21st century mind must demonstrate more than what tests typically measure. Skills such as empathy, ability to coordinate with others, humility, and other more difficult to quantify characteristics are crucial elements.
Brighouse questioned the purpose of testing and standards, describing No Child Left Behind (NCLB) as the victory of testing over standards. He asserted that standards are supposed to guide us to know what really matters or must be taught, and that standards and testing should play a role in teacher preparation. Brighouse suggested that “good teachers” can serve as models to support the development of novice teachers and that standards and testing should be used to identify such teachers.
Brighouse was quick to warn, however, that identifying the right standards is key to ensuring that what students learn is truly valuable. He shared his concerns about the new Common Core State Standards, including their bias toward cognitive and physical, at the cost of emotional, moral, spiritual standards: “When the standards that you have are framed in cognitive terms, you risk reducing what happens in schools to those standards.” He recognized the challenge of teaching and testing emotional and moral characteristics, but points to schools such as KIPP who have worked to emphasize such traits in their curriculum (see file: KIPP NYC Character Report Card).
Despite the challenges of measurement and the complexities of change within large school systems, Brighouse concluded that cultivating the 21st century mind requires that we "measure the immeasureable" -- or at least take these essential characteristics into account.