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Friday, October 1, 2010

What a person learns in a classroom is how to be a person in a classroom

The teacher can be talking about history or math. But what students in a traditional classroom are learning is how to be students in a classroom.

And they are learning it very well. Students are given ample opportunity to practice this skill in a variety of settings and contexts. As if they were playing a rigorously designed (albeit it drab) computer game, students in school systems over the course of a decade are put in ever more challenging situations of sitting in a classroom.

They are learning how to take notes. They are learning how to surreptitiously communicate with peers. They are learning how to ask questions to endear themselves.

It is impressive, at one level that we spend billions on this perfect, practice-based environment to build and hone children’s abilities to sit in classrooms. And we have even built a reward structure to praise those people who can sit in classrooms better than anyone else. We let them run our planet.

However, given this model is economically running us into the ground, and obesity is a global epidemic, it may be time to collectively build and reward different skills. Learning is a full contact sport. To learn something new, a student has to do something new, and often be some where new.

Rather than treating those who want to do something as troublemakers to be fixed, we need to recognize that these people will be the engines of our improvements in standard of living. And, in fact, they always have been.


  1. I agree. It's more than just schools though, it carries through the universities and into the office. How can an employee be innovative, creative, or bath in decadent divergent thoughts when the boss/teacher is looking for production, for that ONE person with THE answer? Brainstorming sessions are useless, because people filter their ideas before sharing them publicly, least they should look like a fool and not get that promotion. Successful employees will come up with ideas that will "endear themselves" to their superiors. In high school chemistry; both the teacher and the student know there will be a precipitate when mixing those 2 chemicals, so, why bother mixing them? Can't I come up with my own experiment?

    Like Charles Bukowski's Bluebird, creativity is buried deep. Businesses need creative people but don't support creative thinking. Schools don't foster creative thinking. Yet, creativity is "singing a little in there, I haven't let him quite die, and we sleep together like that with our secret pact...".

  2. Sadly, I agree. The preferred management mechanics of the baby boomers have been over-applied and now are crippling both organization's creativity and even productivity. Take a look at the label: Unschooling Rules Part 3: White-Collar Homesteading.