Guest blogging at Eduwonk, Curt Johnson is the latest to wonder aloud about how carelessly we throw around the word “innovation” at present. (See also the redoubtable Claus Von Zastrow on the unfortunate tendency to value ”novelty over quality.”). “For Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, innovation seems to mean grabbing the lessons from schools with records of high performance and grafting them on to problem schools,” Johnson notes. That’s not innovation, but replication.
Replication is a worthy effort. But ‘new, here’ is not the same as ‘new, anywhere’. There needs to be room for real innovation. Which means: Letting schools and teachers try things. Which means, in turn, that we will all have to get comfortable with not-knowing, ahead, what the innovators will come up with.
More to the point, we have to get comfortable with failure, which comes with the territory when you innovate. But in an era where accountability is the coin of the realm, risk-taking is not a career move for the feint of heart. “Do something,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously commented. “If it works, do more of it. If it doesn’t, do something else.” Alas, we seem to be headed down a different path: “Do something. If it doesn’t work, we’ll fire you and find someone new to do something else.”
Innovators, line up to the right….Hello?? Hey, where’s everybody going?