An Editorial Digression:
Teachers like John Hunter are the reason why students get excited about going to school, because they know when to teach and when to get out of the way of the student’s learning. It is through this kind of interactive engagement that education becomes fun and ultimately applicable to the real world, exactly what the educational system is supposed to be about. When this kind of engagement is absent, and teaching is about shoving information at a student and hoping enough of it sticks long enough to pass the standardized test, school becomes just another chore to be endured and does very little to prepare a student for life’s challenges.
Another inspiring story along the same lines is a book I recently finished called The New Cool by Neal Bascomb (
my review is forthcoming my review is here) about a just as inspiring STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) focused high-school teacher, and his student’s efforts in the FIRST robotics competition.
A great post by the Zenpundit:
“Is it reasonable to educate people in a way where all subjects are disconnected from one another, prioritizing narrow specialization, emphasizing accumulating facts over understanding principles, rewarding the “right answer” instead of the “best question”, demanding conformity instead of curiosity and then expect our leaders to be visionaries and adaptively creative statesmen who think in strategic terms?
Why would our societal orientation in complex, dynamic, fast moving situations be good when our educational system trains people only to think through simplified, linear, sequential problems? Strategic thinkers need to be able to see “the big picture” and handle uncertainty, or they cannot be said to be strategic thinkers.”
I think the problem in many ways goes even deeper. How much has a focus on the minimum required effort, intellectual instant gratification and a lack of any kind of emphasis or training in long-term thinking affected the very culture of the United States and contributed to a range of problems from obesity and political apathy to over-spending and the credit crisis.
How we teach becomes how we learn, and how we learn becomes how we think. We teach to the test. We learn the minimum required to reach the minimum standard. We think no farther than the next chapter, the next test, the next evaluation, the next paycheck, the next credit card payment. We have stopped thinking about year five much less year twenty five of a thirty year mortgage, and the same thinking horizon applies to health and political decision making. It isn’t about intelligence. There are many very smart people out there who are very good, very fast, thinkers, and if we have gained any kind of skill in dealing with “complex, dynamic, fast moving situations” it is only because we are in a constant state of flux, constantly in crisis mode, and constantly trying to squeeze advantage at best and survival at minimum, out of the bad situations we constantly find ourselves in. That takes skill and inventiveness, but not everyone is that quick, innovative or lucky. However, long-term, strategic, thinking in advance of a crisis could have prevented those situations from ever adversely impacting us or even turned them into opportunities to further our goals.