If/Then: On the Logic of Education

On the utility of if/then questioning strategies in the development of cognitive facility.

National and state standards are a known. They are fixed. They represent discrete bits of knowledge and/or skills that students should master in a given academic year as a way to provide a uniform education. The advantage to applying a uniform set of standards is that professionals see clearly what is expected and where children should be, developmentally, as they move through the system. The disadvantage to applying a uniform set of standards is that professionals are given their marching orders, as it were, as may see their job as one of ensuring children master conjugation or spelling, for example, without regard to how these skills apply to the why of education.

The why of education. Simon Sinek suggests that, far too often, we focus on the how or the what of the things we do in our jobs rather than beginning with the why. According to Sinek, by beginning with why we ensure that others will more easily see the bigger picture of “what we do” or “how we do what we do.” Essentially, when we begin with the why, others will quickly see the “method to our madness,” to paraphrase the Bard.

The “why of education” can be seen as a marriage of social, emotional, and cognitive growth so that at the end of high school a young person may enter the adult world of commerce or service as a productive citizen. And yet, though we may believe in this idea of social, emotional, and cognitive growth, the reality of our nation’s educational agenda is squarely aimed at children’s cognitive growth. Unfortunately, mastering standards (e.g., solving an algebra problem on a standardized examination) is not equivalent to approaching a real-world problem from an algebraic point of view. This algebraic point of view, this perspective, is not related to skills or algorithms that can be applied so much as it is related to looking at a problem logically. If problems are a problem to be solved, then a requisite cognitive ability is to play with the problem’s variables apart of resolving or solving the problem

Therefore, if the why of education” is our first and foremost concern for children, and developing their ability to approach problems or questions from different perspectives or different points of view, then all education, especially early childhood education, should present children opportunities to consider if/then questions. Unlike moving toward a known standard (e.g., fractions), approaching the concept of fractions through a series of if/then questions provides children opportunities to play with the idea rather than being bogged-down with definitions or symbols. If perspective-taking or altering a point of view is an important requisite of all education, it might be that we should focus our attention on simple conversations that employ if/then questions.

At TEDxSFA we’re intrigued by innovative and creative minds that approach ideas from different perspectives.

Keep moving forward (wd).


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On Extruders & Perspectives

Pushing children through.

One of the advantages of compulsory education is that everyone receives an education. One of the disadvantages of compulsory education is that everyone receives essentially the same education. One of the unfortunate features of a common compulsory education is that everyone receives their education from essentially the same perspective. After twelve years of schooling in mathematics, we might be tempted to sing “This is the way we do our math, do our math, do our math. This is the way we do our math, so early in the morning.” If our math education, for example, is a process of pushing children through a standard curriculum, is it reasonable to assume that they will be able to see math differently? Put another way, is it likely that children will be able to approach math from different perspectives, different points of view?

Being able to see the familiar in unfamiliar light is challenging for most of us. If this is so, how is it possible that we can make monumental strides in medicine, architecture and design, science research, and innovation in all areas? For the most part, we all came through the same common school program established in the Nineteenth Century, and yet there are some who seem to be able to shake off their personal histories with education and “look at what’s under the rock,” so to speak.

At TEDxSFA, we’re fascinated by this idea of perspectives. Why do some people easily breakout of the typical patterns of thinking and others seem to be hobbled by their educational experiences? It’s easy to shrug innovators and creative minds as outliers or gifted or talented and yet there must be more to it than this. There must be a defining moment when someone sees the typical atypically. When does a person’s perspective change? And, is a change of perspective something that we can help others to experience via formal or informal educational experiences? Ken Robinson talks about this change of perspectives in the following video: Changing Education Paradigms

During TEDxSFA: Perspectives, you’ll experience the joy and passion of engaging others from many different perspectives and seeing how they approach the typical atypically. Join us.

Keep moving forward (wd).

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Nestled in Deep East Texas

When we think about the movers, the shakers, the innovators, and the creators that will help humanity meet the challenges of tomorrow our minds might quickly shift to the West Coast or to New England or to intellectual hubs like Austin. I wouldn’t fault anyone for thinking this way; and yet, in smaller cities all across America there are people who make a difference by sharing their ideas with those around them. This is the case for hundreds of small towns across Deep East Texas, whose recent claim to fame is that the Space Shuttle Columbia fell here. Big cities don’t have a monopoly on ideas worth spreading and we’re committed to champion the visions of those across Deep East Texas.

We’re organizing TEDxSFA to bring like-minded thinkers, entrepreneurs, visionaries, artists, designers, and educators together in Nacogdoches, Texas so that we can become inspired by the persistence and tenacity of people, like you and me, who make a difference by sharing their ideas with others.

We encourage you to attend our first TEDxSFA event on February 02, 2012.

Keep moving forward (wd).

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