Most Likely to Succeed: A Must-See Movie

October 16, 2015

Project based learning

Last week, I attended the Oregon premiere of the edu-documentary Most Likely To Succeed, hosted by Melissa Lim of Portland Public Schools and sponsored by Clarity Innovations and Organization for Educational Technology & Curriculum (OETC). Most Likely To Succeed starts off by citing a number of worrisome trends:

  • Technology is increasingly smart, able to beat humans at chess and Jeopardy! and even draft financial news articles.
  • While GDP has continued to rise steadily since the mid-90’s, middle class jobs have not kept pace.
  • 53% of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed.

Our current educational system, invented back in 1893 to produce cookie cutter workers for the industrial era is clearly not the ideal system to address our latest challenges. What’s worse, the antiquated system can stymie creativity and fail to engage students in learning. But what’s the answer? According to the movie, our schools need to free our students and teachers from the confines of standards and the pressure of high stakes testing and drastically rethink business as usual.

The movie follows students, educators, and parents at High Tech High, a public charter high school in San Diego, as they create ambitious projects for community-wide exhibitions. In essence, the school is gambling that the soft skills acquired in the process of learning by doing—from self-direction to teamwork to creativity to grit—will prove more valuable in our future society than the ability to master high stakes tests.

The extra focus on High Tech High was certainly appreciated. The minds there hold that depth is more important than breadth. In this way, the time the movie spent diving into stories of learning at High Tech High gave me a more impactful and meaningful understanding as opposed to simply a cursory overview.

According to High Tech High’s Founder, Larry Rosentock, “We all learn in different ways. This isn’t the way to do it; it’s the way that I did it.” High Tech High is finding success for their students with their system. But inspirational educators across the country are finding success with different approaches, some of them within the structure of more traditional systems. I’m interested in hearing their stories as well.

Most Likely To Succeed is a movie all educators, parents, and community members should see. It is guaranteed to start many long-lasting conversations. Local screenings are listed on the movie’s website. In case you missed it in Portland, there will be another screening when the Future of School Tour comes to town this winter.