The Education Strikes Back

Just posting to say that original content might be at a premium over the next few days as the education system has found a temporary way of stopping EduCoup in its tracks: A glut of assignments. I’ll still be posting something of value every day but it’ll be short and sweet. You see, I have three essays and a feature article due in for college over the next two weeks so I’m going to focus on getting those essays done as they’re hanging over me at the moment.

I won’t deny allegations of hypocrisy in my availing of a system I’m criticizing so much. However I will say that I did drop out of secondary school for six months to try to control my own learning, but I had absolutely no support and the usual teenage problems, and just found I couldn’t do it without the support of anyone around me, and having just begun using the internet, that wasn’t much of a help either.

College has had its pros though – meeting an amazing girlfriend and making great friends too, but its all been on the social side of things. Somehow I don’t think me meeting my girlfriend in college is a great argument for other people to pursue a degree, there are plenty of other groups and organizations one can use to socialize.

In analysing the value of college I would focus more on the fact that I have assignments now which are distracting me and preventing me from actual journalistic work that could help me make an impact and a wage – the two main ‘official’ reasons people go to college. If I could have found a way of living in a city and directing my own learning there without agreeing to go to college, I certainly would have. The essays I’ve been assigned are on arbitrary topics like ‘food in society’, which would be more interesting except that anything you say has to be backed up by a source and consequently you are not allowed say anything original. These essays are simply glorified and excessively large exercises in learning not to plagiarise/to reference. Which is indeed a useful skill when it doesn’t interfere with you doing your most bountiful work. Luckily I can write the feature article on whatever I want so that doesn’t get in the way.

Anyway, the point I would like to make is that doing a college course has only served to strengthen my belief that while college is not without merit, self directed learning has far more potential to tap the learner’s full potential. Unfortunately at the moment personally directed education does not have the independent framework, accreditation or cultural familiarity to be a seriously considered option for many. Including, for the moment, myself.

Thanks for all the comments, likes and support. I’m absolutely chuffed and love hearing from people and discussing ideas together.

Think your teenager is naturally unruly? Think again!

This ‘Born To Learn’ Animation shows how we’re wired to explore, not rebel. The school system suppresses our natural drive to learn and experiment resulting in the ‘grumpy teen’ stereotype, hanging out by corners with their hoods up and heads down. Teenagers aren’t wired to be moody, distant and rude – but they are wired to question things and experiment.

So when we try to prevent that natural urge which has been so important to the survival of our race, we end up with some pissed off adolescents. Its important to encourage teen curiousity by providing a safety net for exploration. Students questioning their teacher should be a valued trait, not a punishable crime. What if we had questioned economists and bankers? We could have significantly lowered the damage from the recession. Or in Ireland, where I ‘m from, if we’d challenged the authority of the Catholic Church we could have prevented the abuse of who knows how many children. The rebellious teen is part of the engine of societal progress, and should be mentored, not disciplined. Its time we reconsidered where the fault lies in a young persons misbehaviour. With them? Or with the environments and attitudes they’ve grown up around?

What do you think?

Lullaby Lectures

“Some people talk in their sleep. Lecturers talk while others sleep” – Albert Camus

In his book ‘One Size Does Not Fit All’, author Nikhil Goyal talks about how the lecturing format originated in the 14th century, prior to the printing press. He is dumbfounded that six hundred years later, even after the advent of the internet, we still use such an ineffectual method as a staple tool in our education system. Don’t believe me when I say lecturing doesnt work? The research is there to back me up.

Eric Mazur, professor of physics at Harvard University, confessed, “Its alot more fun being on stage delivering a lecture than it is sitting in the audience watching it.”
As a current college student and recovering victim of Ireland’s secondary school system, I can certainly attest to that. Even in our most entertaining lecturers’ classes, I tend to zone in and out. Its not that I’m not eager to learn, in fact its the opposite – I don’t want to waste an hour and a half of my time paying full attention to a lecture which may not be on the most relevant topic to me. Not just that, but the nature of how our brains learn makes it impossible for me to retain much of what’s said. So I spend the time typing articles and stories, or researching, during lectures; occasionally tuning in to ask a question.

So what are the alternatives? Sugata Mitra gave an enlightening Ted Talk presenting his work with children from slums in New Delhi, which demonstrates the astonishing efficacy of peer to peer learning. Successful learning is intrinsically social, it involves minds engaging one another – rather than one ‘superior’ teacher brain feeding information into thirty ‘ignorant’ student brains. There should be a flow of communication(and collaboration – action based learning is vital) between thirty one brains with the teacher acting as facilitator, not pedagogue. Mazur also employs peer to peer learning as discussed in this riveting article on lecturing versus peer to peer learning.

One thing that has been widely touted but certainly is not the solution is ‘Khan Academy’, an online video resouce which is simply rote learning and lecturing brought to the internet and made accessible at any time. All that does is improve a broken method. Like trying to execute someone with a water pistol instead of a banana: unless you’ve taken classes on how to defend yourself against fresh fruit, neither method is likely to be all that effective.

Leave a comment and say what you think, I’d love to hear what you have to say. Thanks for reading and if you liked the post – please subscribe!