In this chapter, we'll begin to focus our thoughts about education and learning. We'll do this by creating a list, a sort of brief contrast and compare between Momentum Learning and Emergence Learning. We'll also discuss the idea that most of what we teach, we present in linear predictable sequences, and how most graduates, years later, would fail academic competency tests because of this. So is linearity the culprit? We'll begin to look in this chapter on Momentum Learning and Linear Curricula.
Momentum Learning and Linear Curricula
So far, we've raised a few questions about how we learn. What makes it so hard. Why can't we retain more. In this chapter, we'll come up with a list of some of the questions we'll address in coming chapters. This is what the list looks like so far.
On Momentum Education
If this is true then why do so many of our curricula unfold in predictable sequences, rather than in unpredictable sequences? The answer; we favor momentum learning over the more permanent variety. Why? Because we use parroting as our test for learning. And because kids taught with linear curricula parrot answers well.
Now consider what I've just said. Most schools organize their curricula in sequences of linear patterns. Yet the most permanent learning occurs in settings wherein the curriculum is non-linear.
Are you beginning to see my point?
On Revising Education
So is emergent learning the answer? In the long run, yes, it is. In fact, it is the single most important investment we could ever make in our kids. And in our future. The question is, how do we even know where to begin, when so much of our world is based on the false promises and empty certifications of momentum learning?
Not sure what I mean? Ask yourself this. If you were to have to take an exam today, a test for competence in whatever career you now practice, could you pass? What about if your MD were to be tested for competency today. Would she or he pass? How about your plumber? Or telephone repairman? Or your child's third grade teacher. Would they pass? In truth, I'm not sure I could pass either, even though I daily help people heal their lives.
Here's my point. How many people, if tested today, could pass competency tests for their current careers? Twenty percent? Five percent? Whatever the case, the thought is scary.
Am I being too harsh? Please forgive me. I mean no disrespect. All the same, consider this. What would happen if we all had to take competency tests today. Could you pass? Could your friends? In truth, we all know that what I've just said is accurate. We usually just hide this truth from ourselves except in cases wherein we get screwed by someone obviously less competent than we are. Then we complain to high heaven about how education means nothing. And how incompetent people are.
What would happen if we were to admit this truth? What if we admitted that college degrees mean almost nothing as far as ensuring competency?
And what if we all had to regularly pass competency tests, tests which were based on creatively exhibiting real solutions rather than on simply parroting other peoples solutions? What would happen to our world?
At first, I would think, we would all feel really scared. To be honest, we should feel scared. Our educational system is, for the most part, a lie on a par with the Emperor's New Clothes. Think I'm being too hard on educators? Well, consider this. I personally know some amazingly good educators, the kind I'd send my own child to if I had a school aged child at home right now. I even know them to be genuinely motivated toward changing children's lives. Even so, they work in a system wherein parroting is the norm. So how much of the time can they offer the kids their wonderful energy? Once a month, if they're lucky.
So what about all the incompetent educators, the ones who believe in parroting? Does it sound like I'm blaming them for the flaws in the system? Please know, in truth, I'm not. This is not their fault either. In fact, there is no one to blame for the mess we're in. You see, we have all been victims of momentum learning. This means we must all take responsible for the mess we are in. As well as for developing a genuine educational system, one in which children get real opportunities in which to discover the joy in learning. God knows, our kids deserve this.
Where can we begin to take responsibility? By admitting that we have been blaming the failure of education on our children's teachers and principals, and on the kids themselves. Neither teachers nor the kids are to blame. They have all been forced to conform to the "standards." Translation. Teachers are graded for competency based on how well their students parrot information. No surprises here. After all, how do you think they got tenure? They got tenure by parroting the very same information they teach their kids.
On Emergent Education
Unfortunately, the current tests apply only to teenaged students and older. We have yet to design Social Priority Tests for younger children. Can we design tests for younger children? I'm certain we can. However, we need educators who are willing to join with us in order to bring these tests into being. We need their experience and their expertise. And to be honest, we would love to have you join us in this, no matter who you are. After all, investing in children is the best investment any of us could even make. And the most potent self learning environment as well.
What else could we be doing? We could begin to explore non-linear curricula, for one thing. Admittedly, designing and refining these curricula could take years. Even so, when you consider the alternative; continuing to ignore incompetence and the failures of parroted learning; this investment would be more than worth our efforts. Even investing in decades of efforts.
So where should we begin? In truth, you already have, simply by reading, not skimming, this very article.
Do you disagree with me on what I've been saying? Then rather than simply choosing to rebut these ideas, get out these and prove me wrong, by investing some time in exploring these topics for yourself. And please do not simply read other peoples' work either. No way. Go out there and personally investigate how our kids are being taught. Or try to learn something new yourself. You may be surprised at how your whole world opens up.
Finally, lest you hear these opinions as merely the scattered thoughts of a disenchanted teacher, let me tell you, what I've written here is backed up by more than a decade of my own research. It's also being practiced by at least one teacher. His name is Scott, and he is literally blowing kids away with how he gets them to love reading and writing. The sad thing is, it took him four years before he found the courage to risk his license in order to truly teach kids. Not that he was ever a bad teacher. He wasn't. It's just that now, he is an awesome teacher. And a courageous one at that.
On What's Next
Can't picture what I'm describing? You can find plenty of examples on a variety of topics by going to our web site and clicking on the No Parroting! link. There you'll find a slew of teaching-by-questioning questions examples, some of which may provoke new learning in you. Or at least make you curious. Which may then lead you to want to make some of the very differences I've been talking about for the kids in your life. Go for it!
People, Places, and Unusual Terms I've Referred to in This Chapter
Emergence Personality Theory
Social Priority Tests