I’m a lousy fisherman… If fish could laugh, they’d probably be laughing at me every single time (out of the handful of times) I caught one (most of which I accidentally dropped back in the water)… but I suppose I can still appreciate the old adage (fun fact: spell check suggested “old adage” is considered a clichè, but not the saying itself):
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
– Abraham Lincoln… kidding, Maimonides
Recently, at a conference, Neil deGrasse Tyson gave a keynote speech that had this very same theme. In fact, every memorable learning-related experience HAS TO have this theme as a foundation, explicitly stated or not:
“We’ve come to presume that the answer is what matters but not the brain wiring that leads to it.”
The famous cosmologist went on to emphasize an anomaly in how society in general places the value of learning in prescribed grading systems and performance that has little to do with what the real world needs, a viewpoint that most of us educators have in common: straight “As” don’t matter to anyone but the student and perhaps the teacher who prescribed the grade to the student.
What the real world cares about? It will ask you these questions:
- Are you a good listener?
- Are you a problem solver?
- Are you a leader?
- Are you an innovator?
I think we also need to ask ourselves: how are you contributing to society, your company, your family, with your unique experience?
With our focus on standardized testing, learning as events instead of a continuum, we tend to, as Neil said himself: “We’ve come to presume that the answer is what matters but not the brain wiring that leads to it.”
Let us learning professionals vow to providing context, not content, challenges, not answers.
Let us teach people how to get to an answer, not how to regurgitate it.
“Information is meaningless, because it can literally mean anything.” [without context]