About Rethinking Learning

Russell Ackoff

“There is no longer the slightest justification for introducing children to the idea that human thought is a collection of fragmented “disciplines” and making that idea the center-pin of the educational experience for students in their schools. As a historical curio, this idea might make for an amusing aside in a general discussion of the evolution of human thought, but as a notion that is productive and useful for developing minds it is, at the very least, counterproductive. Children grow up seeing the world as a whole. Their greatest challengeone that continues to be the central task of every person throughout lifeis to form a worldview that makes sense out of the multitude of their experiences. Indeed, human sanity depends on the integrated nature of a person’s worldview; fragmented psyches are generally considered ill-adapted to the needs of adult survival” (Kindle 950).

Key Thoughts…

  • The current curriculum as well as the organization of schools and schooling is a direct descendant of the recommendations by the Committee of Ten, a group of men convened in 1892.
  • The world has changed substantially in countless and culture shifting ways since that time.
  • The organization and content of schools has changed little.
  • We are getting closer to perfecting schooling while getting farther and farther away from getting better at the act of learning.
  • Clark Aldrich suggests that there are thee types of learning and therefore three areas of focus for education: learning to learn, learning to do, and learning to be. Helping children learn how to do each should be the primary focus of education.
  • For the past 30+ years we have defined the “problem” as lack of student achievement and international competitiveness as measured by large scale assessments.  We have defined the “solution” the implementation and assessment of ever more rigorous standards.
  • Performance on these same assessments has remained essentially flat.
  • We have allowed urban schools to become proxies for our failure to deal with the often intentional policies and practices that have resulted in obscenely high levels of urban poverty and some of the most segregated schools in the world.
  • It’s time to revisit the original and conclusions that have guided the reform agenda.
  • It is time to  Rethink Learning as if minds and not test scores matter.

This blog is about thinking big and starting small. It is based on the observation that we have lost our way. We have yielded control over what is good for children and what is good for learning to a group of sometimes well-intentioned reformers who have refused to acknowledge that the “fix” they have championed for their often questionable assessment of education – i..e., the reliance on ever more rigorous standards and ever more questionable large scale state assessments – has failed to produce the improvements they championed.

This blog is an attempt to rethink what we mean by learning and how this reflection should/could/can shape the experiences we offer to our children and to one another.  It seeks to explore questions and possible responses to…What should opportunities for learning and the process of learn how to learn look like in 2016?

This blog is about the exploration of the right thing. It is about asking big questions, refusing to be satisfied with impatient and overly simplistic analysis, and seeking the best ways to help our children learn how to learn , learn how to do, and learn how to be.