Education is far less about a set of facts than a way of thinking, than learning how
to critically think. And therefore what I always think should be the basis of education
is not answers but questions. We should teach kids how to question. Now having said that
of course to be a productive adult there are certain skills that are required – reading,
writing and in the old fashioned days we used to say arithmetic. Now we say mathematics.
And it’s important that we provide students those basic skills. And in that sense I’m
in favor of a common core because I think there are certain things that most reasonable
educators and most reasonable mathematicians and scientists and historians would agree
are a part of what every modern literate person should have as a tool to go out and look at
the outside world.
I am in favor of saying okay, let’s get teams of educators and experts in certain
disciplines to say what are the basic things that we think are an essential part of an
early education for people. Put them together and create as well as possible a set of goals
and tools to learn those things. One thing I cannot understand and people are probably
going to be upset about this is why local school boards have control over educational
content. Because local school boards are inevitably made up of individuals without any training.
One of the reasons we send kids to school is to help protect them from their parents
– in a good sense. I mean most parents want their kids to learn good but the point is
the reason kids are outside the house is so they can get exposure to things that might
take them beyond the biases that they learn at home. And if we send them to school we
should take them beyond the biases that are present in local school board members. There
should be standards that are based – that are determined by educators, not by people
who for one reason or another run for election to a local school board. So a common core
is something I’m in favor of. What I’m not in favor of by the way is standardized
tests however. Testing always inevitably means you teach students to be able to do tests.
And I’ve seen it at all levels including by the way at graduate school. We have many
grad students say from China who are excellent at taking physics tests but when they want
to become researchers just being able to regurgitate information is not what makes you a creative
researcher. And I think the same is true for a young person. Being able to know specifics
to pass a test is not the same as being able to understand how to go about answering those