Each year, The Edge asks its members ("some of the most interesting minds in the world") to respond to a provocative question. This year's question was:
The history of science is replete with discoveries that were considered socially, morally, or emotionally dangerous in their time; the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions are the most obvious. What is your dangerous idea? An idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true?
The responses are all worth a read, but the one that caught my attention (given TIS's area of focus, and the fact that I got my MS under him at The ILS @ NWU) was Roger Schank's.
As is his habit, Roger's non-PC response hit the nail of the assignment squarely on the head: No More Teachers Dirty Looks
(It was originally titled 'School Is Bad For Children' and in the following shorter format - perhaps all the attention he's been getting caused him to edit/expand his original answer?)
School is bad for
Schools are structured today in much the same way as they have been for hundreds of years. Schools should simply cease to exist as we know them.
The Government needs to get out of the education business and stop thinking it
knows what children should know and then testing them constantly to see if they
regurgitate whatever they have been spoon-fed.
We need to stop producing a nation of stressed-out students who learn how to please the teacher instead of pleasing themselves.
We need to produce adults who love learning, not adults who avoid all learning because it reminds them of the horrors of school.
We need to stop thinking that all children need to learn the same stuff. We need to create adults who can think for themselves.
Call school off. Turn them into apartments.
- Roger Schank, Chief learning officer, Trump University
Roger is a lightning rod (by his own design), often taking some pretty outrageous positions in order to prompt thought and discussion. Perhaps this (espec the original title) is just another example of this technique, but the content of the message has some merit, I think.
"Education/Training" (both at the K-12 and Corporate levels) has been blindly modeled on an outdated view of how we learn, and how scarce instructional resources/expertise is. Too often, we take the lemming stance of "I went through the current school system and I turned out OK, so it can't be *that* broken!", and blindly ignore (forget?) just how painful and meaningless the majority of the time we spent in school actually was, academically. So, we cheerfully send our kids (and employees) to experience a similar lock-step, one-size-fits-all experience.
We need to not only open our eyes to this suboptimal pattern of behavior, but also open our minds in considering alternative approaches to teaching and learning, based on new research and advances in technology.
- Take into account that, based on our experiences and (yes) genetics, we are all different and unique, so instruction shouldn't be aimed at the "bump" in the middle of the normal distribution curve, but dynamically tailored to the individual (content and pace).
- Motivation, context, and failure are enormous drivers in comprehension and retention. (What's the difference between myosis and mytosis? Anyone who's completed freshman Biology once knew. Now ask anyone who's played SimCity about the relationship between Industrial Tax Rates and municipal growth (something taught in High School Govt and Econ class). QED)
- Very little of what is valuable in life/work is based on explict knowledge of WHAT (which is the instructional foundation of our school systems and most corporate training programs - fact & figures, listening & memorization), but rather on implicit (tacit) knowledge of HOW (doing). This "Learning by Telling vs. Learning by Doing" division is at the root of many of the shortcomings of our current instructional methods.
- Most testing and assessment, as currently practiced, is irrelevant and misleading. Multiple-choice and True/False questions (which make up the vast majority of structured evaluation) say little to nothing about what we are (or *should* be) really interested in:can the learner actually DO something better now (compared to before). Most tests are simply artifacts of what is easy, quick, and inexpensive, when applied to the masses.
To paraphrase from the opening to the 70's TV show, The Six-Million Dollar Man:
We can rebuild it. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world's learning systems better. Better than it was before. Better... stronger... faster."
(Jon Revelos is Consultant - Instructional Design with Tata Interactive Systems)