As a society, we choose to apply metrics to individuals. This seems to be a natural choice—as if innate, we presume to be individuals. However, we are innately social.
After basic study of inertia in application to developing extrapolation scenarios, and to juxtapose the institution of academia, I feel as though all levels of formal education have undervalued the capabilities of technology to better integrate people and information.
I must point out that I will primarily be attacking higher education and their faults. After seven years of struggle as a gifted yet learning disabled student in higher education, toned down, I’m disappointed.
To preface, I claim to be an intellectual minority. I believe it gives me a unique perspective; and in retrospect, allows my objectivity to be useful. With what little research that is available concerning individuals that are gifted and learning disabled, there are many attributes of said students that offer insight into the faults, or perhaps areas where education systems should grow, of educational institutions.
“[Gifted and learning disabled students have] special talents or interests that were usually manifested in out-of-school or within-school extracurricular activities and that enabled them to ameliorate their negative school experiences. These talents and interests were recognized and often nurtured by parents and seemed to contribute to the positive sense of self eventually developed by some of the participants in this study despite their negative experiences in school.”
[Case Studies of High-Ability Students with Learning Disabilities Who Have Achieved, Journal article by Sally M. Reis, Terry W. Neu, Joan M. Mcguire; Exceptional Children, Vol. 63, 1997]
This notion signifies where education systems continue to not change, and in areas that would benefit all students, not just intellectual minorities. Without holistic support, these students might be forced to practice their identified strengths in non-constructive manners (hint: illegal manners). They are certainly not being used in the classroom. Where is the system to identify the unique strengths and weaknesses of each student? Do teachers or mentors know about these strengths? Why do student’s weaknesses get punished instead?
What is a weakness? Well my severe weakness is my learning disability. And this notion is complicated by the fact that disability support services in all grade levels only support the disability—that is, the attempted normalization of the weakness. This system is completely backwards for students who are gifted and learning disabled. But I digress. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.” When it comes to personal learning styles, I do not believe in equality. Weakness is punished by awarding grades as metrics to academic failure, and I believe this act plays into the demolishment of natural creativity that students have.
As Sir Ken Robinson states, “…if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. If you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this, by the way, we stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is, we are educating people out of their creative capacities.”
Sir Ken Robinson continues, “…academic ability, which has really come to dominate our view of intelligence because the universities designed the system in their image. If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can’t afford to go on that way.”
More on Sir Ken Robinson: http://www.ted.com/speakers/sir_ken_robinson.html
My argument here is this: the foundational metrics system which we use to measure the performance of individual students is antiquated. Mainstream education, and in retrospect, society, is suffering from academic inertia—a complete lack of change for the betterment of students. So—how should it change?
Fundamentally, the education system, worldwide, is flawed. It remains insensitive to individualistic needs and continues to degrade as short term funding cuts continue to inhibit its growth. Even while society at large is learning the value of sustainability, it’s education, in the public’s eye, that is open to budget cuts and therefore is less important to society than the roads that we drive on.
Even while society is learning how to embrace technological advancement at exponential levels, academic institutions do not. Yes, schools are taking advantage of online learning tools. But if it didn’t increase the amount of money they took in, they wouldn’t use it. Academic institutions are embracing technology, but for largely the wrong reasons.
Take, for example, the private sector. While interning at Microsoft, my deployment services team was successful for many reasons. However, two of those reasons had to do with information and technology. As a team, we were encouraged to remain from becoming information hogs—that is, individuals who kept crucial information to themselves. We prided ourselves on our unique attributes, such as being a subject matter expert (SME), but when specific information was needed to complete complicated tasks, it was our duty to share and help educate everyone involved. While this process was primarily performed face-to-face, we used Microsoft’s intranet to create an encyclopedia of relevant information that each of us was encouraged to contribute to. As SME’s we had a responsibility to educate everyone else, empowered by integrative technology.
This is not how academic institutions, in a classroom setting, are managed. The teacher is the SME, and if you don’t meet standardized requirements, you fail. Nowhere in the system of curriculum is there a means for students to become the teachers. Nowhere is there a means for students to be assessed based on their strengths, or develop according to their strengths.
What is a personal strength? Well my strengths are my gifts, including my tenacity and creativity. IQ testing identified areas of high intelligence, in contrast to my average IQ scores and my low (learning disability) scores. Stereotypically, people that are not learning disabled or not gifted fall into the “average” IQ range. Again, stereotypically, people tend to believe that they only have one IQ. That’s completely false. IQs are determined by a wide range of specific areas of intelligence. It’s perfectly feasible that everyone on Earth has varying (high and low) IQs—and it’s the higher ones that we should be capitalizing on.
But people are not simply their IQs. There’s also emotional intelligence (EQ) and there’s creative intelligence (CQ). People also tend to use either their right side of their brain or the left side of their brain. And there’s personality. Understanding one’s personality is invaluable when learning about one’s self, and thus, their world. Personality is directly tied to our capacities as learning individuals.
But none of this is measured when we instruct students in mainstream education. Unless, of course, you are identified as a gifted or learning disabled student. Why don’t we perform these tests at all levels of school on all students? Starting in primary school, kids should be tested. They should be tested so that, individually, they can come to terms with their strengths and weaknesses. This is critical for understanding one’s ability to perform in society. Kids should also be tested so that educators and mentors can track individual progress—not standardized progress. Allowing educators to engage with their students at these intimate levels will set the foundations of educational sustainment.
What I propose is this: The healthcare system is receiving a lot of funding to deploy a nationwide infrastructure of personal health information that is supposed to assist with improved health care. Why can’t we do that same for students? And we need to abolish the grading system. It’s arguable that the grade point system measures a student’s strengths and weaknesses. But GPA wraps that information into one clump of poop. And nowhere on a report card is there an educator’s note on why such a grade was received. Similarly, nowhere is there a response from the actual student receiving the grade. If we can implement feedback systems on e-commerce Web sites, we can do it for our students.
Another problem, which with identification could assist with turning education systems around for the better, includes sociability. At Microsoft, we worked in teams. Being an SME was one of my strengths. But as a collaborative team of SMEs, we were something much greater. Students are graded purely on individual “success” which reinforces their “success” on a completely individualized level. While students should understand their ability to contribute to a society in ways that are unique to their psyche, in order to be a part of a society, they need reinforcement that is determined by teamwork for which they are a crucial part.
Similarly, in this era of exponentially evolving information integration, why are we basing our tests on questions that can be Googled in 2 seconds? Why aren’t we asking questions that require problem solving and critical thinking? Why are we asking questions that only have one right answer? Through collaborative teamwork, people learn to think creatively. Through collaborative teamwork, people learn the value of diversity and opinion. In developed nations, having access to the Internet is commonplace. If we don’t teach students at a young age to embrace technology in ways that are meaningful to the society for which they are a part, we are denying OURSELFS the luxury of a self-empowered, socially-educated and technologically-empowered society.
Why is the sharing of information important? Here’s why:
Matt Ridley states, “…what we’ve done in human society, through exchange in specialization, we’ve created the ability to do things that we don’t even understand.” He continues, “With technology we can actually do things that are beyond our capabilities. We’ve gone beyond the capacity of the human mind to an extraordinary degree. And by the way, that’s one of the reasons that I’m not interested in the debate about IQ–about whether some groups have IQs higher than other groups–It’s completely irrelevant. What’s relevant to a society is how well people are communicating their ideas, and how well their cooperating, not how clever the individuals are.”
More on Matt Ridley: http://www.ted.com/speakers/matt_ridley.html
What I propose is this: By engaging with others, sharing problems and sharing ideas, we learn about ourselves while simultaneously learning how to be a more intricate part of a community. Through foundational understanding of how we work individually, we can offer those strengths to our groups through interaction. Engagement is the pinnacle of education. Without engagement and without respectful, compassionate sharing, we reinforce our egos. Reinforcing our egos with what not to do—or with what to do but basing it on invisible expectations—is undermining our abilities as a global community. Our goal here should be to revolutionize our education system to encourage civic engagement at any level. Assignments should be replaced with engaging projects. Students should do these projects together. They should be tested on their abilities to understand themselves and how to best engage with their teams and their communities.
How can we develop student’s strengths, to bring success to their community, and in creative and non-threatening ways? Why would the latter be important?
David Logan states, “So when individuals come together and find something that unites them that’s greater than their individual competence, then something very important happens. The group gels. And it changes from a group of highly motivated but fairly individually centric people, into something larger, into a tribe that becomes aware of its own existence.”
David continues, “Two percent are at Stage One. About 25 percent are at Stage Two, saying, in effect, “My life sucks.” 48 percent of working tribes say, these are employed tribes, say, “I’m great and you’re not.” And we have to duke it out every day. So we resort to politics. Only about 22 percent of tribes are at Stage Four, oriented by our values, saying “We’re great. And our values are beginning to unite us.” Only two percent, only two percent of tribes get to Stage Five. And those are the ones that change the world.”
“See, people who build world-changing tribes do that. They extend the reach of their tribes by connecting them, not just to myself, so that my following is greater. But I connect people who don’t know each other to something greater than themselves. And ultimately that adds to their values.”
More on David Logan: http://www.ted.com/speakers/david_logan.html
The question begging to be asked: Why can’t we design education systems that empower students to value stage four and stage five tribes? If they could even acknowledge what tribe they were in, I presume that it would allow them to strive to a higher level of tribal leadership. Just think of the impacts that would have on our society even if it was a small increase. When we design education systems that teach students what is valued in society, and for all of their developmental years in life (K-12), what should we be striving for?
The goals of our education systems no longer serve us as a society. We are now connected in vastly superior ways from when our core education system values were established. We are no longer individual information carriers and processors. As our society becomes more and more complicated, we have to be raising children with an aptitude for individualized empowerment and value systems based on civic engagement, unafraid to take risks. “American creativity scores are falling.” I have yet to read a political argument battling for a nationwide increase in creativity.
“The potential consequences are sweeping. The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future. Yet it’s not just about sustaining our nation’s economic growth. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care. Such solutions emerge from a healthy marketplace of ideas, sustained by a populace constantly contributing original ideas and receptive to the ideas of others.”
Reference article: http://www.newsweek.com/2010/07/10/the-creativity-crisis.html
The need for creativity is staggering in comparison to knowledge. With the Internet, fact-based information cramming is futile. Education strategy should demand systems that teach students how to solve problems, not simply the solutions to problems. With the Internet, individualistic problem solving is ludicrous. Education strategy should demand systems that reward constructive social behavior. And finally, designing education systems that provide structure for engaging with one’s community should be a requirement—how else are we going to teach the value of a connected society?