I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.
(January 7, 2010)
Our discussion on the roles and processes of education ends with a commentary by correspondent Gene M. on the value of learning by doing.
According to various surveys, the average American will have seven careers and 43 jobs in their working lives. Or maybe it was 9 careers and 17 jobs. The point is that as lifelong-employment is fragmented by global forces (wage arbitrage, etc.), fast-moving technological changes, the implosion of a debt/credit-dependent "prosperity" and the insolvency of local, state and Federal governments, then most of us will no longer have the luxury of learning a formal set of skills, get hired, and then cease our learning.
Indeed, my forecast in Survival+ is that fulltime paid jobs performing one task/job for an entire career will become increasingly scarce: the new model will be what I call hybrid work, a dynamic, flexible combination of unpaid work, paid work, work-in-kind (barter), community work ("paid" in the sense that you receive some stability otherwise unavailable) and pursuit of "free" creative interests.
If this is so, then the focus of formal education might have to shift from the factory model to "learning how to learn/learn by doing." Formal education at all levels is fundamentally a factory model: raw materials (children/the unemployable youth) are assembled in large formally organized "factories" where a strictly rationalized mode of production "processes" the raw material into a standardized employable unit (tested and stamped "approved for work.")
Some stamps are more valuable than others (Harvard, Stanford, etc.) in terms of being employed in high-salary positions.
Units (students) which are defective after processing are either re-processed or sent to other even more tightly organized institutions: the Armed Forces, prison/gulag, etc.
If we view the education complex/industry in this light, we see it as a very high-cost, bureaucratic structure. As the factory "owners" (school districts supported by taxes) go broke, then perhaps the entire factory model will be viewed as unsustainable. Perhaps education will shift to the "workshop/apprentice" model of much smaller units of production, less formalized processing (learning), and a much heavier responsibility placed on the students.
Once the Savior State expires due to insolvency, the whole notion that you can depend on some distant State to fund things expires, too, and cost-heavy bureaucracies will devolve.
From my point of view, most of the discussions about education are limited to tweaking the parameters and inputs of a system which is already doomed to some transformation due to larger financial forces. (Hence the classic "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" metaphor.)
Correspondent Gene M. offered an insightful commentary from a point of view outside the usual circle.
There's an old Chinese saying, "I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand."
Thank you, Gene M., for providing another view on the purpose and limitations of formal education. I would say the real value of formal education, beyond teaching kids to read, is to teach students how to learn on their own--how to assemble "information" into "knowledge"--and how to work well with others.
There may be many ways to accomplish these goals, and it may be that education will become as hybrid as work.
Important book recommendation: Correspondent Charles S. just recommended
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by the late Brazilian educator Paulo Freire,
a very influential book on practical education which is still being read 40 years
after its initial release. Though I have yet to read it, I believe its critiques and
solutions will augment today's entry.
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