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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting...but not Groundbreaking, May 13, 2012
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This review is from: Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World (Hardcover)
In Tony Wagner's latest book, he attempts to explain what should be done to develop young innovators. After a brief primer on innovation, Wagner introduces to several young "innovators" and tells their stories. The aim is to look at these few people, pinpoint the similarities of their childhoods and educational background, and develop a recipe for producing innovative minds. In addition to talking with the people themselves, Wagner consults their parents for clues and parenting skills and styles that have proven beneficial in these specific cases.

The plan of the book is sound, but I was left with a feeling I didn't really learn anything I didn't already know. People have been touting the importance of "play" and imagination in the lives of young people for years. Teaching children to develop passions and think creatively has been the aim of educators for a long time. As in his previous book The Global Achievement Gap, Wagner is right on the money in his adverse views toward standardized testing and how it stifles creativity. However, he again portrays a very negative views of teachers in general. The young innovators he interviews in the book offer largely adverse views toward their formal schooling. It is almost as if he wants you to believe they have accomplished so much in their young lives in spite of the education they've been given. While the current state of education needs to see reform, the problem isn't really with the teachers, but rather the educational establishment as a whole. There are times I think Wagner completely gets this but he shies away from really getting to the root of the problem.

All in all though, the book is decent. Wagner has a likable style in his writing and if you enjoyed The Global Achievement Gap, you will probably like this. I really felt he was on to something, and kept turning the page waiting for some truly revolutionary ideas, but never really arrived there.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 1, 2012 9:16:02 AM PDT
Neil Cooper says:
I agree with this review. Nothing offered is strikingly new and innovative and since creativity and innovation are the main themes of the book it's a bit of a let-down. I was waiting for the authors aha moment and it never arrived. It is well written; certainly a worthwhile book to read. As a leadership & career coach I definitely will apply what I learned with creativity and innovation and pass it on in the form of innovative teaching practices to my audience. That's the bottom line; to take the knowledge and apply it in the real world and pay the authors work forward.

Posted on Jul 31, 2014 3:46:51 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 31, 2014 3:49:44 PM PDT
Rhetor says:
I agree with the review and with the comment by Neil Cooper. The cases are cherry picked to create the illusion of a coherent causal theory of where innovators come from and therefore what we should do. In some cases the author has very clearly ignored chances to explore contradictory evidence -- e.g., if a certain set of parents really has the "right" way to raise an innovator/entrepreneur, oldest son's younger siblings should exhibit the same qualities that he exhibits. In one such case the younger sibling is simply referred to as an excellent athlete ... so that means I could just focus on the other sibling, describe the parenting habits, and re-title the book as Creating Athletes. Nothing wrong with creating athletes, but that is not this book's prescription.

Also, as a Harvard-affiliated scholar, the author's misleading implications are embarrassing. The young man who supposedly dropped out of school ("twice"!) left Exeter for Stanford after the 11th grade, because he had completed "all of his required courses." He should have been able to graduate early, but Exeter had its nose out of joint. Then, at Stanford, he completed 4 years of study in a 5 year BS/MS program. In other words, he spent 4 years in college, then left because he was recruited to the workforce. That is a "drop out"?

My complaints may seem minor, but to my eyes they suggest that the author is willing to nudge the facts to fit a narrative. This may be fine in other kinds of books, but it is not fine from a person who represents his work as scholarly, and not find in a book that seeks to influence education policy. Other biases were also ignored. Makes me hesitate to believe he has produced something reliable.

Posted on Oct 5, 2014 11:17:54 AM PDT
You wrote, "Teaching children to develop passions and think creatively has been the aim of educators for a long time..." and therefore suggest this book fails to cover new ground.

I don't disagree.

Yet pundits, policy makers, and departments of education appear hell bent on building a monolithic system that largely prevents educators from doing precisely what the author of this book, you, and I, agree they need to do. Let us hope this book drags a few more pundits and policy makers over this well trodden ground. Perhaps they will get the message this time.
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