Nothing New

More than a few people I follow on Twitter posted this morning about a “special report” on the Forbes magazine website profiling thirty people under the age of 30 who are “disrupting” education. A few also linked to this post by a teacher ranting about the list being completely void of either classroom teachers and students.

Why is anyone shocked and/or surprised at this kind of story?

First, the list comes from Forbes, a publication that bills itself as “The Capitalist Tool”. They focus on people who are working to make a lot of money, in this case in the education industry. Not on those trying to improve the actual process of student learning. The two parts are tenuously connected at best.

Second, reports like this reflect the usual pattern in the overall public picture of education reform. People held up as leaders in the effort to “fix” our “failing” American schools are wealthy philanthropists, corporate executives, politicians, consultants, and pretty much anyone who is not directly connected to working with kids in those schools.

Of course we’re not going to include teachers or students.

The Dangerous Parts of School

Jessica Hagy, who writes/draws the wonderful Indexed blog, has created a great list of Nine Dangerous Things You Learned in School for the Forbes website.

All the items, including the graphs/drawings that accompany the words, are right on target but number 5 ties directly to my rant from yesterday about giving kids options in their post graduation plans.

There is a very clear, single path to success.

It’s called college. Everyone can join the top 1% if they do well enough in school and ignore the basic math problem inherent in that idea.

It’s very dangerous to believe in one right answer to any part of life, with the possible exception of stuff like “do I jump out of a plane without a parachute?”.

But the best of the bunch is number 7.

Standardized tests measure your value.

By value, I’m talking about future earning potential, not anything else that might have other kinds of value.

Of course, there are more than nine dangerous things we learned, and continue to teach kids, in school, and in writing the draft of this post, I was trying to think of a few of them.

However, this morning Doug jumped in and added many of those I was considering so instead of repeating them here, go read his thoughts.

I would only like to extend the idea in his number 6: not only don’t you need to be smart at everything, you can and should get smarter through out your life beyond school.

That’s coming from a math major who learned to write and appreciate language long after finishing “school”.

How to Be a Better Learner

The business magazine Forbes recently posted a rather odd piece called How to Be More Interesting. Created by Jessica Hagy, the illustrator and writer behind the always inventive blog Indexed, the mix of humor and far-from-traditional advice just seems very out of place from such a conventional source.

However, I was also struck by how much of Jessica’s advice could be applied to being a better learner, and teacher.

1. Go exploring. Explore ideas, places, and opinions. The inside of the echo chamber is where are all the boring people hang out.

2. Share what you discover. And be generous when you do. Not everybody went exploring with you. Let them live vicariously through your adventures.

3. Do something. Anything. Dance. Talk. Build. Network. Play. Help. Create. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re doing it. Sitting around and complaining is not an acceptable form of ‘something,’ in case you were wondering.

7. Give it a shot. Try it out. Play around with a new idea. Do something strange. If you never leave your comfort zone, you won’t grow.

So, does being a better learner make a person more interesting? I suppose it’s possible.

Anyway, go enjoy the whole thing, especially Jessica’s Indexed cards that accompany each item.