Heather Wolpert-Gawron

What Every 5th Grader REALLY Needs to Know

By on September 1, 2009

So I’ve become a Guy Kawasaki fan. It all started when I was searching for commencement day speeches for my Speech and Debate team to compete with. I found his “Hindsight”. It’s a speech that has tremendous impact on me and on those who choose to compete with it, because they spend 9 weeks memorizing, analyzing, and embodying the pieces that they have chosen. His speech is a pretty cool place for a kid (like a middle schooler), one who doesn’t know their place yet in this world, to hang out in.

Welcoming cowAnyway, I’ve been following him on Twitter as well (@guykawasaki), and occasionally the jewel comes my way that harkens back to those good ‘ole “Hindsight” days, days of great insight and straightforwardness that comes with the eloquence of Kawasaki. Today’s jewel was “10 Things To Learn This School Year,” and I thought to myself, “Ed Hirsch must be wondering how in the world this list has anything to do with his What Every 5th Grader Needs to Know.”

The way Kawasaki generated his list was this: he thought about what his preconceptions of important skills were before he entered the workforce. Then he reflected on the skills he felt were important since entering the workforce. You can view his full list here, which includes great how-tos for all of these steps, but here is the annotated version for your skimming pleasure:

1. How to talk to your boss.

2. How to survive a meeting that’s poorly run.

3. How to run a meeting.

How to figure out anything on your own.

5. How to negotiate.

6. How to have a conversation.

7. How to explain something in thirty seconds.

8. How to write a one-page report.

9. How to write a one-page report.

10. How to get along with co-workers.

So I’m thinking, many teachers already know how important these skills are to teach. But these skills are treated as underground, black-market standards that we have to fit in between lessons driving in dates, outlines, and bubbling. If only testing companies could discover a way to make some money assessing these all-important skills, we’d be so much better off in education. At least the forced standards would be inline with the standards required of life.

But what would those assessments look like? Is there a way to create a multiple-choice standardized assessment on collaboration? Or flexibility?

These are the questions that education ought to be answering, not whether or not current practices assess well enough. It’s clear that they do not. After all, being able to answer…

“What sound does a cow make?”

A. Moo

B. Meep

C. Low

D. Cud

(Correct answer “low” for all you urbanites out there)

…does not a critical-thinker make.

Keep fitting in those all-important lessons. You may not be hitting the standards as they exist on tests, but you’ll be preparing students for the tests of real life.

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