Changing the Education Paradigm

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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9 Responses to Changing the Education Paradigm

  1. Josh W says:

    Fair dos, at least you’ve given it a watch. Watched it again myself and the only collectivist bit I can spot is in the first 30 seconds, where it suggests that people want to spread their “cultural DNA” (although he gives no solutions for that). I thought you were going to criticise liberal-ness in the english sense, ie “hippies focused on individual potential and freedom without consideration of the practicalities”, basically the exact opposite, so I can only assume your pretty damn libertarian!

    • Josh W says:

      Or there’s some communitarian undercurrent I can’t spot because it fits with my biases…

      • andrewclunn says:

        Damn it. Your well written honestly curious responses are inspiring me to rewatch it to give a more meaningful response! I’ll get back to you in a bit.

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        My guess is that Andrew, as a libertarian, didn’t like the part toward the end suggesting that most learning takes place in groups—that it’s more natural to tackle a problem collaboratively than independently. But, of course, our very discussion in this thread suggests that two (or more heads) talking together can be better than one. It wouldn’t have hurt even Howard Roark to have tea with, say, Frank Lloyd Wright, and not be such a go-it-alone recluse. And the scientific enterprise takes place in a hive of intellectual exchange at conferences, etc.

        Still, originality manages to still get rewarded. Individuals are recognized for having earned the Nobel Prize in this or that each year (even as they spent a lot of time getting to their insights by reading others, talking to others, debating others, getting advice on experiments and procedures, etc.).

        —Santi : )

      • andrewclunn says:

        I actually had no problems with the group learning parts. I was not remembering my criticisms of the video correctly. It is indeed not collectivist in nature. My issues with it are with its, “New Agey” intellectual sounding approach of drawing conclusions from anecdotes and conjecture. Thinks I took issue with:

        – The notion that it dismissed the notion that educating certain people was a waste of time. I’m something of an elitist who does not believe that all people are created equal or anything like that.

        – The thought that educating for economic incentives was or is undesirable.

        – A lack of presenting any sorts of solutions or tangible examples (outside of the ADHD part, and even then the conclusions didn’t really seem to connect to the example in any real way).

        – The promotion of “individuality” for it’s own sake. Namely the unexplained “divergent thinking” study of the children. Really, being able to say, “Hey could the paper clip be 20 feet tall and made of rubber?” is an asset? I guess all that proves is that your study is stupid.

  2. Josh W says:

    There is a great irony that his study of divergent thinking is itself a standardised test, but I think it does have a relationship to creativity; being able to delink a concept from it’s context, to stretch analogies in different direction, is a classic skill of creativity. You could say the other half is putting back those constraints that localise it in the new situation, give it rigour, see if it actually works etc.

    To be honest I was scooting past and mostly just saw what I thought was a preconception hardening, and decided to pounce 😛

    But seen as we’re here!

    About the elitism thing, I think any reflective teacher will quickly realise that a few of their kids, maybe quite a few, actually show real potential in areas that are nothing to do with what they are being educated towards, and start wondering how they could encourage that potential instead. It’s not really about being created equal, but about making the most of the functional differences between people.
    I mean where I’m from, everyone get’s put into sets in their schools in different things, ranked in each subject according to our abilities. There’s no lovey dovey “everyone’s the same” business, you find out what you actually are good at and get stuff to match! But that’s still mostly in lessons following a certain style, and almost all the “educationalists” I’ve come across want to expand that to not just giving people content that challenges them (another way to look at what setting is “for”), but also presenting them with problems in a way that leads them most quickly to improve, which can mean setting them problems in really odd ways! In a way it really is about not educating those people who don’t suit it, for one strict definition of education, but treating whatever learning they do instead as potentially equally worth helping to work.

    The other criticism these kinds of people make of a lot of focused career-education is that the world has changed massively in 15 years, with jobs becoming important that did not exist before that, and the assumption is that change in the job market will only increase, and the more vocational you make the earlier years of a childs life, the more you risk mistargeting them at something that will be of little value when they come to leave school. So the argument is that you should teach kids creativity, critical thinking, emotional engagement with the world, abstract maths and logic, but sometimes do it through random stuff like machines to fix or songs or assault courses or whatever makes it become functional best, and more importantly, make the kid more functional at problem solving, being artistic, self-determining, etc.

    But really in that video he’s preaching to the choir, so he doesn’t spell much of that background out, and mostly just makes a rallying cry to people who’ve seen the same stuff he has. So it is basically handwavey poetry and rhetoric, because the real substance has been done before elsewhere. It’d be nice if a few of those guys had got the animation treatment really! Maybe they will eventually.

    My main problem with this was the end of the process though, suppose you do end up with all these non-standard and highly actualised teenagers/young adults, what recruitment system or human resources departments could handle that? If you reject the idea that education is mostly just a sorting mechanism to do recruiter’s jobs for them, then we still need a way for the recruiters to do it!

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