I Have a Hunch…

…that Education is going to change quite significantly before I reach retirement. Does anyone else feel that way?

I just finished two books this past weekend: Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation and Ken Robinson’s the Element.

Both books are about creativity and innovation and what is unsurprising is that there are many similarities between the two books.

What I liked about Robinson’s book was his idea and definition of creativity. There are multiple modes of intelligence and he provided great examples from fields other than the arts (even though he is a strong proponent of giving the arts the same importance in schools as reading and math). He talks about a Nobel winning physicist. Richard Feynman, who found his passion, but is was almost by accident, some serendipitous moment, where he started to play with ideas just for fun – think of google’s 20% free time model, and then saw a connection that eventually led him to his prize in quantum electrodynamics.

Johnson also claims that there are many ways that good ideas spring forth, but the solitary eurika moment is very rare. Usually it begins with a hunch and it’s some other event, or somebody else’s hunch that triggers the new idea. Two half-hunches, if you will.

One thing Johnson mentions is that our abilities to connect with one another through technology has increased tremendously, and that as you can see from wikis and the idea of open source technologies, people are coming up with new ideas faster than ever because of the possibility to connect more.

I posted his TED talk earlier where he described the ‘invention’ of GPS as a side project (again like google’s 20% free time to pursue your passion project). Eventually Reagan allowed that satellite technology to be ‘open source’ and many of us now have devices in our pockets that can locate the nearest Starbucks.

All too often teachers teach math or writing to children like there is only one right answer or one right way to do something. Standardized tests (while they have their place) reinforce that. It’s clear Feynman didn’t see math that way. He didn’t know what he was looking for until he discovered it. The ‘inventors’ of GPS didn’t start out trying to design a geo-location device.

The bottom line is that being open to new ideas may allow your half-hunch to become complete. Children need to learn to work with one another and collaborate. They need environments where the diversity of ideas spawn new and better ones. They need to be part of a working community full of people who are passionate about what they do.

If you want a short taste of Johnson’s book, below is a quick 4 minute animation from a recent keynote.

Oh, and is it too late to find your passion or your element? Robinson gives many examples of people who found it well after they turned 40. And if you have a growth mindset, that shouldn’t surprise you.


43 thoughts on “I Have a Hunch…

  1. Pingback: I Have a Hunch…

  2. Great post! Yes, I do also think education will change dramatically (In some places it is already happening). My vote is for including some kind of transformational work and conflict resolution starting in kindergarten. Love your last paragraph! I like to say that we should lives our lives from vision, not from circumstances. My co-authors and I wrote our books for women at midlife and beyond, but the principles apply to everyone.

  3. I don’t know why it should be late…it is only late for those who decide to give up…you know how they say that you grow old when you start playing, this is probably the same.

  4. Good insight into the creativity process and inventiveness, I’m gonna pick up Steve Johnson’s book, it looks like a really good read (the animation also helped catch my eye :D)

  5. Very interesting. I recently read a book called Brain Rules by John Medina (a neuroscientist) who said in the chapter regarding Learning, that if you wanted to create an environment and structure that was the absolute WORST for the way our brains learn, it would be the American classroom. He has some interesting suggestions for change that I hope catch on.


  6. This post is about two years too late. These sorts of sentiments were all the rage during the boom, but nowadays people need hard skills, not collaboration skills to get jobs, etc. And finding your passion after 40 isn’t all that feasible if you are funding your retirement.

  7. I loved your link and I love the link I have attached below maybe even a tiny bit more!
    We are homeschooling, so perhaps we think outside the box already. I think that creative thinking should be encouraged with our youngest learners. They seemed to be discouraged from independent thought in the school systems.

  8. The topic of education is extremely wide (and that of cognition and thinking even wider), so I am not going to go into depth here.

    However, when you say “Children need to learn to work with one another and collaborate. They need environments where the diversity of ideas spawn new and better ones. They need to be part of a working community full of people who are passionate about what they do.” you are in effect describing what many schools already try to do—and which works extremely poorly for many of the students. Indeed, for many, the best way to learn is in solitude, by own means, from books or wikipedia, simply by thinking things over, etc. Going further down the road you suggest is likely to lead to even worse education.

    (I am someone who values openness to and inflow of new ideas highly. The kind of teaching that would follow here, however, is something different.)

  9. I have to agree with the previous commenter. “Working together” and “collaborating” for me were code words for “watch other people steal your ideas and get lauded for them.” I overwhelmingly prefer to work alone now and get infinitely more done.

  10. i wish education would change before i retire. i have a very sad feeling it won’t. america’s not great at completely revamping anything, and that’s what needs to happen.
    this is definitely an interesting and inspiring post, though!

  11. I believe it was Einstein’s view that our imagination had to outrank cognitive reasoning. With reason, we may carry out an experiment or assure ourselves our time wasn’t wasted in the pursuit of one thought or another. It is the electric flash if insight or imagination which can give us every reason that our reason be given its full head os steam as well.
    A very thought-provoking post. I would have liked a view of that 4 minute animation, tho’.

  12. Children do need to immerse themselves into society, the educated one, a lot more. Though that is a bit hypocritical as those who are educated professionals will often believe that they, and only they, can ever be in their position…
    P.S. Thoughtfulness is found on: peacefulintent.wordpress.com
    you may be offended, but you were warned.

  13. .,education really is changing, there are a lot of innovations today than over the past years, new technologies arises and i have to agree with your bottom lines we need to have an open mind for new things to learn and discover as we grow.

  14. i’ve seen ken robinson and he is amazing, his books are great, but he’s better live. as a teacher, i can tell you the biggest impediments to innovation are teachers. for some of us, it’s like swimming upstream. thanks for the info!

  15. I am so very glad to stumble upon this post. I could not agree with you more! Our ways of teaching is changing depending on the teacher. I think it shows through the children’s play. I fully believe in presenting many different ‘things to do’ to have them learn that their interests expand farther than what they are aware. I also believe no one person can truly be innovative without the help, support (if you will ) of others. They need friends with no clue, friends who are in the know and agree with them and friends that will challenge their ideas. All opinions and thought aid the ideas to come to fruition and be as successful as they imagined.

  16. Eh…when it comes to math, there actually is a correct answer, despite what hippie anti-positivists might think. In fact, with MOST matters, there is a correct answer. In any case, public schooling is defunct. Anyone with gumption either homeschools or sends their kids to private.

  17. Thanks for this post, it was very interesting. I will need to read these two books. Thank God my kids are in college and can think for themselves! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!


  18. I really enjoyed this post. I am an education major, so this was a highly relevant topic and comments. Funny enough, we watched one of Steven Johnson’s videos last week, to highlight the things we have discussed in class.

  19. The education of a child should begin long before he/she enters the “formal phase of instruction”. Better parenting increases a child’s ability to succeed in school. I take strong exception to the suggestion that the quality of public education is the sole reason we have underachieving students. Our entire society needs overhauling!

  20. Interesting post. Just read a text today about autodidacts who had been successful in life, mentioning that the standard education system stresses memorising and accumulating data, working within existing frameworks, whereas people who had been autodidacts had to ‘figure life out’ on their own, through their observations, insights, etc. From my own experience, that’s the kind of learning that seems more empowering and effective.
    The current ‘frontal lecture’ classroom system hasn’t been around all that long really compared to human society, and I think it was mostly a way to prepare people to be useful cogs within industrial/modern society – it does seem to stress knowledge and skill within other people’s paradigms more than initiative and intuition – whereas those are probably more useful in our days and also perhaps more in tune with our natural capacity to learn (through experimenting and interacting rather than ‘cramming’).

  21. Pingback: graduate research | further decentralizing education « URBAN_MOLECULE

  22. Love the part about “after 40…!” Something to look forward to besides the usual work grind. Actually makes sense, people have more stability as they mature. Thanks for the nice read and congrats on Freshly Pressed! LB

  23. It does not surprise me at all that people have found out their passion or element after turning 40… how many people truly know ourselves in our late teens and early 20s… that’s when a lot of important decisions are made about education, jobs, careers, future…

  24. Pingback: Things I Love Thursday. « Her Softly Spoken Heart

  25. First of all, I love the RSAnimate videos. Second, I’m with you, education is going to be flipped over within the next decade. That or it will be so poorly damaged that it will be better to stay home than go to school.

  26. Good post. For any “education” to materialize we need a change or fresh turns in our regular pattern of thinking. But come to think of it, most of the brilliant ideas are often the result of ‘on-the-spur-of-the-moment’; especially after the forties..when maturity has reached new heights !!

  27. Pingback: further decentralizing education « C.DLT

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