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Topic: [ncsm-members] Doublethink: The Creativity-Testing Conflict
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
[ncsm-members] Doublethink: The Creativity-Testing Conflict
Posted: Jul 20, 2012 2:01 PM
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From Education Week [American Education's Newspaper of Record],
Tuesday; July 17, 2012, Volume 31, Issue 36, p. 26,32. See

Doublethink: The Creativity-Testing Conflict

By Yong Zhao

Doublethink is "to hold simultaneously two opinions which canceled
out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them,"
according to George Orwell, who coined the phrase in his novel 1984.

American education policymakers have apparently entered the zone of

They want future Americans to be globally competitive, to
out-innovate others, and to become job-creating entrepreneurs. Last
year, the Obama administration announced a $1 billion-plus
public-private initiative to support entrepreneurial activities,
which included support and rhetoric surrounding
youth-entrepreneurship education. And the U.S. Department of
Education says that "entrepreneurship education as a building block
for a well-rounded education not only promises to make school
rigorous, relevant, and engaging, but it creates the possibility for
unleashing and cultivating creative energies and talents among

State leaders have taken similar actions. California, Massachusetts,
and Oklahoma have begun exploring the development of measures to
gauge the extent to which schools foster creative and entrepreneurial
qualities in their students, according to a Feb. 1, 2012, article in
Education Week.
SIDEBAR: "What brings great test scores may hamper entrepreneurial qualities."
In the meantime, the policymakers want students to be excellent
test-takers. The federal government is racing to the top of
standardization and standardized testing; states are working hard to
make two subjects common and core for all students; an increasing
number of teachers are being paid based on their students' test
scores; and students are fed with an increasingly narrow,
standardized, uniform, and imagination-depleted education diet. All
these measures are intended to improve students' academic
achievement, or, in plain English, test scores.

But test scores are not measures of entrepreneurship or creativity.
Not even scores on the intensely watched and universally worshiped
Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, are good
indicators of a nation's capacity for entrepreneurship and creativity.

In doing research for my book World Class Learners: Educating
Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, I found a significant negative
relationship between PISA performance and indicators of
entrepreneurship. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, or GEM, is an
annual assessment of entrepreneurial activities, aspirations, and
attitudes of individuals in more than 50 countries. Initiated in
1999, about the same time that PISA began, GEM has become the world's
largest entrepreneurship study. Thirty-nine countries that
participated in the 2011 GEM also participated in the 2009 PISA, and
23 out of the 54 countries in GEM are considered "innovation-driven"
economies, which means developed countries.

Comparing the two sets of data shows clearly countries that score
high on PISA do not have levels of entrepreneurship that match their
stellar scores. More importantly, it seems that countries with higher
PISA scores have fewer people confident in their entrepreneurial
capabilities. Out of the innovation-driven economies, Singapore,
South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan are among the best PISA performers,
but their scores on the measure of perceived capabilities or
confidence in one's ability to start a new business are the lowest.
The correlation coefficients between scores on the 2009 PISA in math,
reading, and science and 2011 GEM in "perceived entrepreneurial
capability" in the 23 developed countries are all statistically
significant. (By the way, these countries have also traditionally
dominated the top spots on the other influential international test,
the Trends in International Math and Science Study, or TIMSS.)

China's Shanghai took the No. 1 rank in all three areas of the 2009
PISARequires Adobe Acrobat Reader, but the scores do not have any
bearing on China's creativity capacity. In 2008, China had only 473
patent filings with or granted by leading patent offices outside
China. The United States had 14,399 patent filings in the same year.
Anil K. Gupta and Haiyan Wang put those figures in a broader context,
writing in The Wall Street Journal last year: "Starkly put, in 2010
China accounted for 20 percent of the world's population and 9
percent of the world's GDP, 12 percent of the world's [research and
development] expenditure, but only 1 percent of the patent filings
with or patents granted by any of the leading patent offices outside
China." And 50 percent of the China-origin patents, the writers
added, were granted to subsidiaries of foreign multinationals.

Moreover, what brings great test scores may hamper entrepreneurial
qualities. Standardized testing and a focus on rote memorization, for
example, are perhaps the biggest enemies of entrepreneurial
capability. A contrast between Finland and the East Asian countries
illustrates this point. Although Finland's entrepreneurship
activities do not rank as high as its PISA performance, the Finns
possess a much higher level of perceived entrepreneurial capabilities
than the East Asian countries. In the 2011 GEM surveyRequires Adobe
Acrobat Reader, 37 percent of Finns reported having the capability
for entrepreneurship, more than 20 percentage points higher than the
Japanese (14 percent), at least 10 percentage points higher than the
South Koreans (27 percent) and Singaporeans (24 percent), and nearly
10 points higher than the Taiwanese (29 percent). This difference may
come from the different style of education in Finland and the East
Asian countries.

Unlike their peers in high-performing East Asian nations with
well-established reputations for authoritarian and
standardized-testing-driven education that emphasizes rote
memorization, Finnish students do not take standardized tests until
the end of high school. In fact, Finnish schools are a
standardized-testing-free zone, according to Pasi Sahlberg in his
book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn From Educational
Change in Finland? As a result, students in Finland are not pushed
toward rote memorization. Finnish education is certainly not nearly
as authoritarian as its Asian counterparts.

Most important, as the education historian Diane Ravitch observed in
The New York Review of Books earlier this year: "The central aim of
Finnish education is the development of each child as a thinking,
active, creative person, not the attainment of higher test scores,
and the primary strategy of Finnish education is cooperation, not

The United States saw a decline of creativity over the past two
decades, as a 2010 Newsweek article reported. Titled "The Creativity
Crisis," the article cites research by Kyung Hee Kim, an educational
psychology professor at the College of William & Mary in
Williamsburg, Va. Kim analyzed performance of adults and children on
a commonly used creativity measure known as the Torrance Tests of
Creative Thinking. The results indicate a creativity decrease in the
last 20 years in all categories. This decline coincided with the
movement toward more curriculum standardization and standardized
testing in American schools exemplified by the No Child Left Behind
Act. "NCLB has stifled any interest in developing individual
differences, creative and innovative thinking, or individual
potential," Kim said in an interview on the Encyclopaedia Britannica

Standardized testing rewards the ability to find the "correct answer"
and thus discourages creativity, which is about asking questions and
challenging the status quo. A narrow and uniform curriculum deprives
children of opportunities to explore and experiment with their
interest and passion, which is the foundation of entrepreneurship.
Constantly testing children and telling them they are not good enough
depletes their confidence, which is the fuel of innovation. So, by
any account, what policymakers have put in place in American schools
is precisely what is needed to cancel out their desire for creative
and entrepreneurial talents.

I don't know how policymakers can hold, simultaneously, these two
ideas, creative entrepreneurship and test-driven curriculum
standardization, that both research and common sense recognize as
contradictory unless they change the slogans of 1984's Oceania, "War
is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength" into
"Standardization is Innovation, Uniformity is Creativity, and Testing
is Enterprising" for education today.
Yong Zhao holds the presidential chair and is associate dean for
global education in the college of education at the University of
Oregon, in Eugene, and a professor in the department of educational
measurement, policy, and leadership. He is the author of Catching Up
or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization.
His latest book, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and
Entrepreneurial Students, was published by Corwin Press in June.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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