“I like university professors, but you know, we shouldn’t hold them up as the high-water mark of all human achievement. They’re just a form of life” – Ken Robinson
I personally find academics very entertaining. They huff and they puff about their very idiosyncratic world that almost nobody is aware exists. They are often the worst at organising events and it’s not uncommon to find them completely avoiding everyday human contact. Yet most school practice is habitually and almost solely aimed at producing more of them. Even though great gains have been made, the ever constant factory approach to education around the world quietly focuses on dividing most societies into a ‘clever’ minority and ‘not-clever’ majority. This was ok in a 20th century world of simple class-based hierarchies but the recent explosive impact of exponential change in science, technology, and values have dramatically altered what’s important and it is certainly anything but academic – it’s very real indeed.
In this discussion about academic habits, I must get something off my chest. An ever present contradiction that exists in just about all schools when comparing what we teach children about science, math and data, and how we behave as organisations. If I was to conclude that the moon has less gravitational pull than the earth because its name begins with M, my science teacher would explain I hadn’t allowed for the mass of the celestial bodies in making that conclusion. We explain to children in both Science and Math that conclusions that do not take into account all the present variables are meaningless, and yet, with peer-reviewed research, as well as teaching experience, showing that poverty is a clear factor impacting on test results, our schools continue to officially and globally conclude that poor students are less able then rich students when publishing results and awarding prizes.
Once schools admit to the fake-science of standardised testing, we might move on from simply ranking performance regardless of circumstance (variables) to a focus on the nature and process of learning, which aligns perfectly with the demands of 21st century existence. Success in the 20th century was often defined by the status of past learnings, but the 21st century hasn’t the time to read your family heritage and defines your success by the confidence and ability to tackle your on-going future learning needs.
Schools need to cease their systems of confirming who is not Einstein and start systems and create environments that celebrate the joy that is being oneself and clearly articulating one’s own growth. A journey that can be documented and visibly presented to future employers who are crying out for people who show evidence of adaptability and confidence in what they might offer a team or project.
The more powerful story offered by famous geniuses is in their journey of becoming and not in their final accomplishments. The challenge for schools is how do they systematically celebrate trial-and-error over an often outdated, pre-defined image of perfection? This requires a societal change that may start within schools through educating their communities in how school needs to reflect the world adults live in and not the world they grew up in.