Human beings are terrible at predicting the future once you have a certain level of complexity. A great example of this is going on right now with the NCAA tournament, where there are a number of upsets, but very few people who have successfully predicted them:
This fact keeps coming up for me during my work at a democratic school. As I interact with students it’s obvious to me that I have absolutely no idea what is best for them. I just can’t predict how their life is going to unfold, so trying to control it in anyway seems horribly counterproductive.
Many people I talk to have the idea that I should be trying to inspire them in some fashion, probably toward programming and/or video game design, which I am currently working on outside of my time at the school. The thing is, I have no idea whether they should be designing video games in any capacity in the future. I personally think it is interesting and creative work with the potential to be very lucrative, but there are an infinite number of paths that someone can take with those same characteristics and those aren’t the only characteristics that matter when people choose how to spend their time.
Any attempt I make to try and effect their lives toward some goal that I think is valuable is an attempt to predict the future. It’s an attempt to predict that these students will be better off doing what I think they should be doing compared to what they would decide to do on their own. I have absolutely no ability to do that.
Maybe twenty years from now they’ll wish that they had spent their time doing some activity instead of what ever they chose to do when they were ten years old, but I can’t predict what that will be. Even if I could (maybe I had a time machine), then I’d probably just end up screwing up the space time continuum or something and twenty years later they’d wish they’d done something else.
So much of education seems predicated on this idea that adults know what is best for students, but I personally have no confidence in my ability to predict the future, especially one as complicated as the life of a child…