Forbes’ Radical Thoughts – On Education

Readers may have noticed from our 3Di website that our aim is to “change the way we think about intelligences and education“. Our blog post today consists of several paragraphs selected from the Forbes magazine website which are saying very much the same thing: all our thinking about teaching, learning and intelligences needs to change.

People around the world are waking up to the fact that the 19th Century educational paradigm is well past its sell-by date, and a learning revolution is needed if students are to fulfil their potential in a wired world of electronically connected, creative individuals and organisations.

Forbes is an American business magazine owned by Forbes, Inc. Published biweekly, it features original articles on finance, industry, investing, and marketing topics. Forbes also reports on related subjects such as technology, communications, science, and law.
– Wikipedia

Forbes is by no means a bastion of idealistic and socially progressive thinkers. Forbes readers are not known to be radical critics of the established world order. All the same, they are now being challenged to change their perceptions about the school and college system, and about the real needs of learners in the modern world. Bear in mind that Forbes is first and foremost a serious magazine for people who want to get seriously rich.

Sebastiab Thrun has found a fresh challenge that excites him: fixing higher education. Conventional ­university teaching is way too costly, inefficient and ­ineffective to survive for long, he contends. He wants to ­foment a teaching revolution in which the world’s best instructors conduct highly interactive online classes that let them reach 100,000 students simultaneously and globally.

Udacity’s earliest course offerings have been free, and although Thrun eventually plans to charge something, he wants his tuition schedule to be shockingly low. Getting a master’s degree might cost just $100. After teaching his own artificial intelligence class at Stanford last year – and attracting 160,000 online signups – Thrun believes online formats can be far more effective than traditional classroom lectures. “So many people can be helped right now,” Thrun declares. “I see this as a mission.”

There’s a startup boom in online higher education, but nearly all of the players hope to advance by working within the system.

Such careful collegiality is not the Thrun way. “It’s pretty obvious that degrees will go away,” Thrun says. “The idea of a degree is that you spend a fixed time right after high school to educate yourself for the rest of your career. But ­careers change so much over a lifetime now that this model isn’t valid anymore.”

So Udacity is charting its own path as a career academy for brainy people of all ages. Most of its 25 employees are video, graphics or software whizzes determined to make each second of online instruction as eye-catching and compelling as possible. It currently offers 11 courses, for free, in subjects such as computer programming, statistics and mathematics.

Udacity later this year is expanding into the humanities. Thrun says the service will always have “a free path,” but the idea is eventually to charge for certificates or enhanced features such as chat.

“I was a popular professor,” Thrun says. “My teaching ratings were usually good. I could take complicated subjects and explain them in an entertaining way.”

Even so, professor Thrun privately knew something was wrong. In many of his classes students fared much worse on the midterm exams than he expected. He says he had fallen into the “lecturing trap,” in which the instructor looks brilliant and a handful of top-performing students create the appearance of a lively class – but most students aren’t keeping pace. Thrun needed a way to engage all students.

3Di’s view is that the majority of university courses are prohibitively expensive for millions of the less wealthy, and often their working methods are alienating, dull, uncreative & demotivating. Information can often be better disseminated through the Internet. However, there is always going to be great value in bringing people together in seminars for debate, discussion and creative thinking. There are surely many ways to combine the best of the old with the best of the new.
*     *     *     *     *     *

Peter Diamandis wants help. The man whose X Prizes have spurred breakthrough ideas in areas such as space travel and oil-spill cleanup aims to launch a similar initiative to help fix education in the U.S. But as he told an audience at the SXSW Interactive festival in March, he isn’t sure how to do it.

There’s no shortage of high-tech visionaries and tycoons these days, running around with ideas about how to fix education. Many of them are finding, though, that technology alone isn’t enough. Exciting ideas founder quickly if they don’t sustain motivation in students who perform at widely different levels. Other challenges include the need to engage effectively with school districts, teachers and parents.

Nonetheless, Diamandis vows to press on. He told the SXSW audience that his X Prize Foundation is looking to hire at least five more senior staffers this year, including someone to run the education initiative. “One of our goals should be to build an educational system we can be proud of,” he declared.

3Di has no doubt that change needs to take place on several levels – curriculum, delivery, and whole system. We know from our own experience of running courses in schools and universities that students appreciate thorough and imaginative preparation, stimulating delivery, peer and tutor collaboration and proper practical involvement, with opportunities to engage and discuss with one another. We also need to be mindful of the fact that what we should do as educators is to simultaneously promote creative and imaginative thinking, social intelligence, emotional intelligence and personal intelligence. It’s not just the intellect that needs to be stretched and stimulated when preparing young people for the rest of their lives.

 Creating Innovators: Why America’s Education System Is Obsolete

America’s last competitive advantage – its ability to innovate – is at risk as a result of the country’s lackluster education system, according to research by Harvard Innovation Education Fellow Tony Wagner.

Taking the stage at Skillshare’s Penny Conference, Wagner pointed out the skills it takes to become an innovator, the downfalls of America’s current education system, and how parents, teachers, mentors, and employers can band together to create innovators.

American schools educate to fill children with knowledge – instead they should be focusing on developing students’ innovation skills and motivation to succeed, he says:

“Today knowledge is ubiquitous, constantly changing, growing exponentially… Today knowledge is free. It’s like air, it’s like water. It’s become a commodity… There’s no competitive advantage today in knowing more than the person next to you. The world doesn’t care what you know. What the world cares about is what you can do with what you know.”

Knowledge that children are encouraged to soak up in American schools – the memorization of planets, state capitals, the Periodic Table of Elements – can only take students so far. But “skill and will” determine a child’s ability to think outside of the box, he says.

As lined out in his book, “The Global Achievement Gap,” that set of core competencies that every student must master before the end of high school is:

– Critical thinking and problem solving (the ability to ask the right questions)

–  Collaboration across networks and leading by influence

– Agility and adaptability

– Initiative and entrepreneurialism

– Accessing and analyzing information

– Effective written and oral communication

For his latest book, “Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World,” Wagner has extended his studies to address the problem of how we teach students these skills. He has come to the conclusion that our country’s economic problems are based in its education system.

“We’ve created an economy based on people spending money they do not have to buy things they may not need, threatening the planet in the process,” he says. “We have to transition from a consumer-driven economy to an innovation-driven economy.”

In an effort to discern teaching and parenting patterns, Wagner interviewed innovators in their 20s, followed by interviews with their parents and the influential teachers and mentors in the students’ lives. He found stunning similarities between the teaching styles and goals he encountered with these influential teachers at all levels of education and concludes, “The culture of schooling as we all know it is radically at odds with the culture of learning that produces innovators.” He identified five ways in which America’s education system is stunting innovation:

1. Individual achievement is the focus: Students spend a bulk of their time focusing on improving their GPAs — school is a competition among peers. “But innovation is a team sport,” says Wagner. “Yes, it requires some solitude and reflection, but fundamentally problems are too complex to innovate or solve by oneself.”

2. Specialization is celebrated and rewarded: High school curriculum is structured using Carnegie units, a system that is 125 years old, says Wagner. He says the director of talent at Google once told him, “If there’s one thing that educators need to understand, it’s that you can neither understand nor solve problems within the context and bright lines of subject content.” Wagner declares, “Learning to be an innovator is about learning to cross disciplinary boundaries and exploring problems and their solutions from multiple perspectives.”

3. Risk aversion is the norm: “We penalize mistakes,” says Wagner. “The whole challenge in schooling is to figure out what the teacher wants. And the teachers have to figure out what the superintendent wants or the state wants. It’s a compliance-driven, risk-averse culture.” Innovation, on the other hand, is grounded in taking risks and learning via trial and error. Educators could take a note from design firm IDEO with its mantra of “Fail early, fail often,” says Wagner. And at Stanford’s Institute of Design, he says they are considering ideas like, “We’re thinking F is the new A.” Without failure, there is no innovation.

4. Learning is profoundly passive: For 12 to 16 years, we learn to consume information while in school, says Wagner. He suspects that our schooling culture has actually turned us into the “good little consumers” that we are. Innovative learning cultures teach about creating, not consuming, he says.

5. Extrinsic incentives drive learning: “Carrots and sticks, As and Fs,” Wagner remarks. Young innovators are intrinsically motivated, he says. They aren’t interested in grading scales and petty reward systems. Parents and teachers can encourage innovative thinking by nurturing the curiosity and inquisitiveness of young people, Wagner says. As he describes it, it’s a pattern of “play to passion to purpose.” Parents of innovators encouraged their children to play in more exploratory ways, he says. “Fewer toys, more toys without batteries, more unstructured time in their day.” Those children grow up to find passions, not just academic achievement, he says. “And that passion matures to a profound sense of purpose. Every young person I interviewed wants to make a difference in the world, put a ding in the universe.”

“”We have to transition to an innovation-driven culture, an innovation-driven society,” says Wagner. “A consumer society is bankrupt — it’s not coming back. To do that, we’re going to have to work with young people — as parents, as teachers, as mentors, and as employers — in very different ways. They want to, you want to become innovators. And we as a country need the capacity to solve more different kinds of problems in more ways. It requires us to have a very different vision of education, of teaching and learning for the 21st century. It requires us to have a sense of urgency about the problem that needs to be solved.”

Wagner is not suggesting we change a few processes and update a few manuals. He says, “The system has become obsolete. It needs reinventing, not reforming.”

These urgent calls for action have been heard for many years from people such as Sir Ken Robinson and authors Gordon Dryden & Jeanette Vos (The New Learning Revolution). Those calls have been heard and acted upon long ago in several progressive countries, especially those that put the wellbeing of students first and foremost – Finland, Denmark, etc. The USA and Britain, as well as other, larger countries where there are many vested interests, a great deal of wealth, rigid expectations and a love of hierachical systems, have behaved like enormous heavy battleships or aircraft carriers – which take forever to slow down, let alone turn around.

China, on the other hand, has re-tooled, re-trained and is re-inventing its entire education system along the lines suggested by Dryden and Vos. China has thereby followed the lead of smaller Asian countries such as South Korea, Singapore and the province of Hong Kong, which are the new stars of the international success league for education and the wellbeing of children.

Time to wake up.


“Not everybody needs to go to college, and those that do may not need to go right now.”

“Diversities of talent.”

“We must not have a singular conception of ability and intelligence. Think about that the next time you need a fireman to save your life.”

“A 3 year old is not half a 6 year old.”

“Kids are now being interviewed for kindergarten.”

“We have built our education systems on the model of standardised fast food.”

“It’s about passion and what excites our spirit and our energy. The reason so many people are opting out of education is that it doesn’t feed their spirit and their passion.”

“Human flourishing is not a mechanical process or part of a factory model. It’s an organic process. You cannot predict the outcome of human development.”


“Our education system is predicated on the idea of ‘academic ability’. The whole system was invented in the 19thC to meet the needs of industrialism.”

“We need to radically re-think our view of intelligence.”

“Intelligence is wonderfully interactive. The brain isn’t divided into compartments.”

“Creativity comes about as a result of different ways of seeing things.”

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
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