As I’ve been thinking through education I wanted to try and write out my working thesis on what a great education might look like.
Here are my current thoughts:
- Eliminate Boredom
This is more about creating an environment that lets kids eliminate their own boredom. Children should never have to sit still and listen, though. They also shouldn’t be required to sit through a lecture and just listen. Really they should never be forced to do anything. This may seem undisciplined, but I think true discipline needs to be developed through choice rather than force. By forcing students to do things you’re generally just developing a sense that school is not fun and you’re wasting a lot of time with kids who are bored, not engaged, and not learning anything except how to behave and do what your told to do (if you hold a high regard for entrepreneurship and small business owners, then you have to let go of “behaving” as an ideal for education – I’m more interested in helping kids become creative, independent adults rather than just people who follow orders well).
- Promote Autonomy
This is true in business as well. People will be more motivated, do better work, be better communicators, be more creative, and be more empathetic if they feel like they have control over their own lives, if they feel they are acting on their own free will rather that simply responding to orders. This may be the single most important aspect to a great education or a great work force. The more autonomy people have to do what they think is best, the more ownership they will take over their own actions. I know many people do not respond well sometimes when they are given autonomy, but I personally believe that this more often due to a poor environment (you have autonomy but you will be fired or punished severely if a mistake is made) or lack of practice (no confidence in their own ability to make decisions). In either situation a great environment will help with some patience.
- Promote Helping Each Other
I think this serves a number of purposes. The more students have responsibility over their environment, the more autonomy they have. Having them become deeply involved in helping each other get the best education possible can help foster community, can help teach empathy, can provide opportunities for creativity and purpose as the students figure out how best to create the ideal environment, and can help reduce the load of responsibility for adults. If you’re looking for scalable techniques for improving education then this last point is key.
- Promote Ability To Learn
Carol Dweck has been promoting the growth mindset for the last 6 years. Basically it promotes a mindset that says I’m not just “bad at math” or “bad at basketball”, but rather, I am not yet good at math or good at basketball. The idea is that you are abilities are not fixed. That with the right practice and the right training you can improve your abilities and essentially become good at anything. Our world is changing quickly and a good education has to give people the confidence that they can continue to learn and develop their skills after their official education has ended.
I have some specific ideas on how to create the environment necessary to promote these ideals, but I think I’ll save that for another post as it’s Thanksgiving and I’d rather watch some football right now.