I started to read this extremely enjoyable book by Amanda Lang, titled “The Power Of Why: Simple Questions That Lead to Success”. Although I only have read the first chapter at this point, there was so much that connected with education, that I couldn’t help but to take a “blog break” and share some of my thinking.
This quote on the importance of curiosity connected a lot to what I wrote about in “The Innovator’s Mindset“:
Curious kids learn how to learn, and how to enjoy it—and that, more than any specific body of knowledge, is what they will need to have in the future. The world is changing so rapidly that by the time a student graduates from university, everything he or she learned may already be headed toward obsolescence. The main thing that student needs to know is not what to think but how to think in order to face new challenges and solve new problems.
Yet do schools often promote the opposite of curiosity and look for compliance?
In an educational system in which productivity is measured by hours logged per task, number of worksheets completed and scores on standardized tests, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to prompt kids to ask more questions unless the questions are about what’s going to be on the test. In many classrooms, stopping to encourage and mull over questions that aren’t procedural or directly related to the material at hand is viewed as wasting time. It’s no big surprise then that most kids come to school bursting with questions, but exit, a dozen or so years later, asking very few. Curiosity declines from one grade to the next, and the reason isn’t that kids’ thirst for knowledge has been satiated and they now know everything they want or need to know.
And then this:
So instead of learning how to learn, many kids are learning how to be good at going to school. The straight-A student is, in virtually every educational setting, the one who has figured out what the teacher wants and how to deliver it.
Yet, here is where I was blown away. Does the “get the right answer” culture stop at K-12, or does it continue on in post-secondary? The author contends in some ways it gets worse:
But apparently, matters are even worse at institutions of higher learning. My source of this information? Celebrated professors at those same institutions. “The traditional way of thinking about learning at a university is that there’s somebody who’s a teacher who actually has some amount of knowledge, and their job is figuring out a way of communicating that knowledge to someone else,” Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, told Maclean’s. “That’s literally a medieval model, it comes from the days when there weren’t a lot of printed books around, so someone read the book and explained it to everybody else. That’s our model for what university education, and for that matter high school education, ought to be like. It’s not a model that anybody’s ever found any independent evidence for … I don’t think there’s any scientist who thinks the way we typically do university courses, where we have 300 people in a lecture hall and someone standing at the front and talking to them, has anything to do with the best methods for getting people to learn.”
…Gopnik went on to point out that because of the “insane” competition to get into top universities like McGill and Harvard, by the time students finally arrive, they’ve been trained to focus on grades rather than on taking intellectual risks or asking questions. The important thing is getting an A, not having an original thought.
Do we do our best to weed out divergent thinkers? What does this do for our thinking in the future and the future of “innovation” in education, business, and social programs?
But this lack of “divergent thinking” (or the openness to it) is not only encouraged in schools, but in every day facets of our lives.
In this article shared by Stephen Ransom titled “The Other Side is Dumb“, it also talked about how the “Internet” is not necessarily promoting divergent thinking. Where things are carefully curated based on what you have shared, are we open to listening and considering the perspectives of others, or are we so focused on “being right” that we lose out on our own growth? (Really encourage you to read this entire article.)
Or, the next time you feel compelled to share a link on social media about current events, ask yourself why you are doing it. Is it because that link brings to light information you hadn’t considered? Or does it confirm your world view, reminding your circle of intellectual teammates that you’re not on the Other Side?
I implore you to seek out your opposite. When you hear someone cite “facts” that don’t support your viewpoint don’t think “that can’t be true!” Instead consider, “Hm, maybe that person is right? I should look into this.”
Unless we intentionally go out of our way to ask questions, listen to others, and try to gain perspectives that do not always align with our own, we will get what we got. Seemingly, the world and education is set up to keep you colouring between the lines, yet if we truly want to promote “innovation”, we are going to have to encourage curiosity from ourselves and our students, to gain new perspectives that will help us all move forward.