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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Musings of a lifelong reader, part three

When I was in col­lege, work­ing on a project for one of my library sci­ence class­es, I wrote a pro­pos­al for edu­ca­tion­al reform. Thir­ty years ago (gulp) it seemed to me that school didn’t work very well … at least not for me. I was cer­tain I couldn’t be the only per­son to feel this way.

Venn diagramAround fifth grade, with a brief respite for a bril­liant sixth grade teacher, and then through twelfth grade, I went through the paces, fin­ish­ing my school­work, com­plet­ing my assign­ments, but my report cards con­sis­tent­ly said, “doesn’t work at her full poten­tial.” Instead, I had a secret life of study­ing. I would find a top­ic in school that intrigued me and I’d check out every book in the library, read­ing as much as I could, ask­ing ques­tions of any­one like­ly to answer, draw­ing dia­grams and maps, and stor­ing things away in files for some time in the future. I cut pho­tos out of mag­a­zines and made long lists of things I want­ed to know. Very lit­tle of this intense study inter­sect­ed with my school­work.

I pro­posed that edu­ca­tion be re-made to be a life­long, inte­grat­ed part of our dai­ly habits. Learn­ing would orga­nize itself around peo­ple who were inter­est­ed in study­ing cer­tain sub­jects and those study groups would be com­prised of peo­ple from age 8 to 80. The young and the old have much to learn from each oth­er. An eight-year-old will ask ques­tions that wouldn’t occur to an 80-year-old. An 80-year-old may have the expe­ri­ence and con­tacts to track down infor­ma­tion. My pro­fes­sor asked if edu­ca­tion would be a require­ment for every­one. That’s a tough one to answer. Would some peo­ple need encour­age­ment to sat­is­fy their curiosi­ties?

Collaborative learning

If a like-mind­ed group want­ed to explore build­ing a more effi­cient engine, say they stud­ied the his­to­ry of com­bus­tion engines, looked at the exper­i­ments of var­i­ous engi­neers, exam­ined the work of artists who involve machine parts, stud­ied the effects of cook­ing aspara­gus by dif­fer­ent means, and took field trips to observe nat­u­ral­ly-occur­ring effi­cien­cies … what might they dis­cov­er that hadn’t been looked at before?

What does this have to do with read­ing? We all know that read­ing inter­ests and skills drop off for a large num­ber of stu­dents as they get old­er. What if edu­ca­tion didn’t hap­pen in the way it does now? What if it were com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent? What if every­one pur­sued only the top­ics they are inter­est­ed in, when they’re inter­est­ed in them? What if they sought out peo­ple of all ages with like inter­ests to col­lab­o­rate with as they inves­ti­gate and learn and cre­ate and store knowl­edge that makes them feel sat­is­fied? It may not be that we need to have a prob­lem with read­ing, it may be what and where and how and why we are ask­ing young peo­ple to read.

We’d need librar­i­ans and edu­ca­tors, of course, because it’s essen­tial to be guid­ed by peo­ple who have a broad knowl­edge of where to find things and how they fit togeth­er. It seems to me that those dis­ci­plines might find it excit­ing to con­tem­plate how this type of learn­ing would enable them to freely adapt their own inter­ests and tal­ents to help­ing oth­ers learn.

Standardized testing … conformity … changing the paradigm

A cou­ple of weeks ago, I was thrilled to view the video below, a record­ing by the RSA, the Roy­al Soci­ety for the Encour­age­ment of Arts, Man­u­fac­tures and Com­merce, and specif­i­cal­ly by Sir Ken Robin­son, a pro­fes­sor of edu­ca­tion and a leader in the fields of cre­ativ­i­ty and inno­va­tion. I could go on, but Sir Ken Robin­son is quite elo­quent about all of this.

Here’s the video that makes every cell in my brain and body vibrate with the pos­si­bil­i­ties. Watch this and I believe you will nev­er think about edu­ca­tion in quite the same way again. Let me know what you think.

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