Put The Buggy In The Barn

608. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I’m reading a book about brain science and how it applies or might impact education. I’m finding the science and discoveries about the brain amazing and yet the application and translation to education is frustrating and sometimes mindboggling.

Marshal McLuhan wrote that we make sense of new technology through the eyes of the past. So, for instance when automobiles first came on the scene we referred to them as horseless carriages. I make sense of my smart phone as if it were simply a telephone and it is so much more than that; I do not know what to call this thing that I carry in my pocket, this thing that has more computing power than the Apollo space crafts. I am squeezing a new miracle into an old idea; I do not understand the power and capacity I already possess.

That is precisely what the authors of my book are doing (and that we are perpetuating in our national non-conversation about education) when applying their ideas to teaching and learning; they are squeezing miraculous insights into an antiquated system. They are addressing the relationship of teacher to student, content-deliverer to receiver, assuming a factory model system in which students are passive and clumped according to age groups in a room filled with rows of desks. They are not challenging the faulty assumptions that their science is revealing. They are attempting to help teachers navigate a standardized test driven system when all of their findings indicate that a standardized test driven system impedes learning.

What prevents us from challenging our assumptions, from actually creating something designed for the times in which we live? That is a rhetorical question. Our challenge is not to improve teaching or to raise standards. Our challenge is to put the buggy in the barn and buy a car. No amount of discussion, testing, debate, or application of new science will make the horse drawn carriage work better in the 21st century. The intention behind the book is to positively impact with the latest science processes of learning, yet it defines learning from a century old idea.

Jill put the question to Seth Godin and he responded with something like this: education will change when the entire community engages in a conversation about the purpose of education (not a direct quote). What is this thing we call education? What is its purpose? If it is, as I hear in our national dialogue and political rhetoric, to make better workers, then we are already lost. Actually, “to make a better workforce” is a perfect statement of a lowest common denominator system expressing its lowest common denominator intention. Design to the minimum, aim for the minimum, and we will hit the minimum every time, no brain science necessary.

3 Responses

  1. WOW, David…may I quote you using the last sentence of your post? When one sentence covers so much about life…well, I have some peoples with whom I would like to share your words.

  2. amen

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