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The Case for Fixing Public Eduction

19/02/2013

With channels besides Vlogbrothers, like Crash Course and SciShow, it seems pretty obvious that Nerdfighteria and her people value education a great deal. But what of the argument that it is not being handled in the best of ways. Ken Robinson who is, what Wikipedia describes as a “author, speaker, and international advisor on education in the arts” very articulately argues that children do not grow out of their creativity, but rather, they are educated out of it.

In a TedTalk in 2006, he points out that children are more creative because they are more willing to make mistakes. And according to him, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” And to be honest, his argument seems to have merit. Sir Ken has also pointed out that the divergent thinking seems to be discouraged more and more as children get older.

What is divergent thinking you may ask; well let me tell you. Divergent thinking is a way of thinking that explores many possible solutions. He helps explain his point with an example, a simple question. “How many uses are there for a paperclip?” Sounds simple enough right? Well, maybe not. Sets of children were asked this question periodically during their educational development and as their ages increased, the number of solutions they found decreased. The explanation he gives is that, as children get older, they are repeatedly taught that there is only one right answer, which, as anyone can tell you, just doesn’t hold up.

Consider if you would, the idea that the method used to group children into different classes and the like does not make that much sense. The conventional method used is age; what Robinson calls, “Date of manufacture.” Now, I don’t know about you, but I am something created in a factory. Perhaps if, instead of age, we used something more concrete like learning style or personality type, maybe the success rate would be much greater.

It is also worthy to note that more and more, children are discouraged from doing what they might enjoy in exchange for what might be economically viable. They are told again and again, “Don’t do art, you’ll never be an artist.” Or “Don’t act, you’ll never be an actress.” “Learn math, become a scientist, or a doctor, engineer, lawyer, etc.”

Daniel Pink who, as an author and journalist, for a period, and regretfully, attended law school. He argued in his TED Talk that another obstacle hindering progress is what he calls “Functional Fixedness” which is a “cognitive bias” which prevents someone from using something in a way other than the one intended. When put into the context of the candle problem, it literally keeps us from thinking outside the box.

Then Pink cited an experiment, based off of the candle problem experiment, done by a psychologist named Sam Glucksberg, who conducted an experiment, which resulted in a total reevaluation of incentives. It began with two groups, one as control and the other as the variable group. To the variable group he told that if they could complete this particular problem fastest, they would be financially rewarded. For the problems involving logic, the incentivized group blew the control group out of the water, but and here’s where things get interesting, the problem which required a bit of divergent thinking, the incentivized group did worse. Which, any capitalist can tell you, does not make much sense. But there is no doubt a disconnect between what we should happen according to those who do not consider the periphery. This method of educating children is like putting blinders on them so that they cannot see the world from all angles.

Unless we make adjustments and soon, we are likely to see a detrimental outcome before too long.

Alec

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