18 April 2012

Cannonballs, Guided Missiles and Fractured Education

One of the biggest problems with the educational system is perhaps the most invisible and it stems from a view of the world that fractures the world into pieces. Students can sail through the educational system for sixteen years before they get any real world feedback because we believe that work and learning should be separate.

Alex Lightman has been sharing a few variations on a message I've tried to give my kids on the importance of not just finding or creating something you are good at or that pays well but rather, something that does all that and more. This Venn diagram neatly depicts the importance of getting all three elements in a job rather than just settling for one or two.

One problem with education is that kids are largely secluded from the world of work and they don't get much feedback on what they might be good at or even what pays well. (Pay is not just a paycheck. Other factors come into play, such as hours, stress, co-workers, etc.) 

Cannonballs shoot into space and the initial trajectory determines where they land. By contrast, guided missiles can adjust mid-flight based on new information. Guided missiles are much more accurate. 

Students who don't get the chance of work experiences that at least simulate the real world in which they'll live for decades experience education like a cannonball. We all know someone who has majored in something, concluding 16+ years of education with a 6 month job that quickly clarified for them that they couldn't spend their life missing one or two of the above keys. 

One of the biggest changes I would make to K-12 education is to break down the walls between school and work so that every student experienced work in some form from about age 10 on. Perhaps 10% of their time starting at that age would be engaged in tasks that could only be described as work. (And on a related note, if I were king even 55 year old "workers" would still be required to spend about 10% of their time in the classroom, trying to make sense of the world and further develop their understanding and job skills.)

I would bet that almost no one gets to the "#win" region of the above Venn on the first try. That is, no cannonball is going to neatly land within that small target. Instead, students need a chance to continually adjust their goals, their learning, their skills, their passions as they iterate their way towards the "#win." That is, cannonballs won't hit this target but guided missiles might. 

The notion that we should fracture work and learning is a legacy of an old, analytic model that breaks the world into pieces in order to understand it. It's time to look at - and experience - life as a system that brings seemingly disparate parts back together. And education can be one area that leads the way. 

1 comment:

nunya said...

I like this post. It makes sense to me. Unfortunately higher education is becoming but a dream for many.

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