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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Build More, Consume Less

Those leading the industrial education system have two incompatible goals:

  • One one hand, they are ever more following the dated and disproved tops-down "management" theories of metrics, standardization, and short-term accountability.
  • On the other hand, those at the national level who track skills, because they are terrified at the drop in mathematics and science competencies in today's students, are trying to change schools to better develop our nation's capabilites here.

The truth here is that for schools, getting out of the way may be the best thing they can do. Students, left alone, will build things. They will create unique, surprising things to meet specific needs that often only they understand (even if the need is to enable an elaborate prank).

Building can be done with computer code or lumber or ingredients or fabric. And building is the opposite of consuming, such as done of movies, text books, restaurant meals, most video games, or lectures.

The next generation of engineers and scientists are not going to be the ones who are the best "students," memorizing this week's lists of tables and equations before heading off to history class where they do the same with historical figures and dates. In fact, it will be a failing graduate school that draws from this lot. The next generation of engineers and scientists will be the ones who are skipping the class but painfully and meticulously gathering the building blocks in their secret workshop and putting together something unprecedented.

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