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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Expose More, Teach Less

Children should be as exposed to as much richness as possible. This includes different careers, different lifestyles, different cultures, and different forms of meaningful work. In this process (and perhaps only in this process), each child will find what it is that resonates uniquely.

Here are some guidelines for the process of successful exposure.


  • Travel. While this can seem to imply a big trip, it shouldn't. It is amazing how much is available in a one hour car-drive radius of most people.
  • Talk intimately to authentic experts. Find the people who care more and know more and do more (people who have studied more don't count). Engage them one-on-one if possible.
  • See experts in their environment, doing what they do best.
  • Be flexible according to a child's interest. Force a few minutes, but then be equally prepared to leave quickly or stay all day.


  • Use a standardized checklist. There should never be an "approved" standardized list of early life stimulation (although many have pushed for foreign languages and high culture such as art, history, or music). This is for many reasons, including that there are just too many potential areas, they should evolve, and one has to be flexible when the right opportunities arise.
  • Subvert the experience with directive-style teaching techniques. There should never be a test or paper required after an exposure event, for example. These extrinsic motivation techniques overshadow any nascent and emerging interest.

Meanwhile, the use of media or highly staged events is a double edged sword. Where tickets are involved, exposure-based interests are seldom born. Movies, museums, Broadway performances, air shows, fairs, and sporting events can be used as a last resort and where they do not break the above guidelines.

Exposure is inefficient in the short run but transformative in the long. Which means that exposing a child to a great scientist has a low probability of predictably pushing him or her down a scientist path, but over the years any child leading a life of rich exposure will predictably find what they love and where they can uniquely contribute.

Author's note:

One tragic and common cycle is:

  • Year one: Adult discovers and loves classical music.
  • Year two: Adult believes that a few high school students might also equally love classical music.
  • Year three: All high schoolers have scheduled sessions to listen to classical musical.
  • Year four: All high schoolers are tested on their knowledge of classical music to make sure all are paying attention.
  • Year five: Elementary schools and middle schools want to seem advanced so they also have classes, with papers and tests, on classical music.


  1. You might be interested in watching Adora Svitak’s TED talk - she seems to embody many of the values this blog upholds.