Isn’t it amazing how sometimes several things happen at or around the same time, uncanny even. Perhaps it is just that you become more aware, that your sub-concious mind or Recticular Activating System (RAS) are primed. Over the last couple of weeks I have been reading Seth Godin’s book Linchpin, I hadn’t previously read any of Seth’s work; However, this has been an eye-opener as from what I have read so far this man has hit the nail firmly on the head.

Does School Work?

In one of the chapters “Indoctrination: How we get here”, there are some paragraphs around the structure of schooling in industrialised societies. One very telling paragraph being:

If I drill and practice and grade and reward you for years for doing math with fractions, what are the chances they you’ll learn fractions? School does a great job of teaching students to do what we set out to teach them… problem is we’re teaching them the wrong stuff

Normally, I might not have paid quite as much attention to this as I did on this occasion, had it not been for two conversations that I had in the days preceding me reading the quote.

The conversations

Over the space of a couple of days I had two very revealing and interesting conversations. The first with a work colleague, an artist/thinker, for whom I have the utmost regard. We were talking around some topics and got onto how a number of graduate engineers enter industry with exceptionally strong academic backgrounds and yet find it incredibly hard to actually apply any of that to practical, real world problems or to add value beyond accepted wisdom.
The second conversation was with a friend of mine, our children have just gone throught the year 6 SATS process at school. The conversation started with my friend relaying the message that his son’s teacher had given that now the SATS had finished there was no requirement for any homework. He was incensed at this and was animated about what sort of message that sent out to impressionable children. I could not disagree and added that much of the two months preceding the SATS had been spent on drilling our children on how to pass them and do well in them. To that end there had been little or no educational value in that time.

The bell rang

It was then, a day or so later, when I read the paragraphs in the book that the bell rang in my head. What I had talked about in two conversations was summarised so succinctly on p45 of this book I was reading. It would appear that we have become so focussed on league tables of academic results that we seem to be neglecting the higher value of education, to develop people who can think independantly, who can take knowledge and apply it, question it and add value to it. It is all well and good being able to learn trigonometry and answer a standard exam question by rote, but if you cannot then apply it to a real problem, in the real world what value does that education have?

What do you think?

iPad: not a bad PDF reader
Creative Commons License photo credit: quinn.anya