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Our Imagination Deficit

Writing in the Washington Post, EJ Dionne says our biggest problem in this country is not the budget deficit.  It’s a tremendous lack of imagination.

Our imagination deficit is the shortfall we should worry about. We seem incapable of doing what we did in the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and, yes, Nixon years: imagining how practical public action could make our citizens’ lives better, our country stronger and our private economy more productive.

The larger and more important challenge is to figure out how we can plan, invest and compete with countries far more focused than we are on how the new global economy works. And the people most amazed at our country’s inability to do so are not armchair socialists but tough-minded chief executives.

He notes that the US is falling way behind most of our international competitors in a variety of areas: building a modern infrastructure, seriously embracing green economics, managing health care costs, and support for the neediest members of society, not to mention working on finding a practical balance between taxes and spending.

Dionne didn’t mention education but, in many ways, that is the area of public policy in which our leaders demonstrate the least amount of imagination.

Little to nothing of what is being proposed, at the federal level or in most states, would alter the traditional concept of school from what it was in the 1950’s.

Except for more testing of basic subjects, less variety in the curriculum, greater standardization of the teaching process, and an expansion of “choices” that suck money away from public schools into financially shaky clones.

Now would be a good time to re-imagine teaching and learning for our kids’ future that looks nothing like our past.


  1. Tim Owens

    I think I would have to argue it is not a lack of innovation in these spaces that is keeping us from moving forward, rather systemic corruption. I think plenty of people have brought forward innovative ways to advance in all those areas and many of us in education have advocated in that sector for these changes. When you’ve got large corporate and political interests working against you I think it takes a lot more than imagination to break that.

  2. Tim

    Although I always try to assume best intentions, you make a good point. There are far too many people in the business of education who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

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