What The Heck Do We Mean By Education

“Learning is not compulsory, but then, neither is survival.”
W. Edwards Deming

You will notice that Dr. Deming did not mention “being taught” at all.

People must recognize the difference between being taught and learning.   You can teach some things. These are usually fact oriented, established procedure, protocol related issues or the very beginning of the knowledge to be acquired.  You may be able to do better than the current system does.

If you listen to Sal Khan at the Khan academy you will find his system involves doing the teaching part at home and doing the “old homework” part in class.  When you think about it lesson presentation skills are very limited when compared to what is possible on the internet.  Watch for the change to happen soon.

You cannot teach some things.  It is possible to influence, but  impossible to teach someone intuition or any other fact or process which is handled at a barely conscious level.  Most are non-linear.  The student must learn them.  Think basic research, music composition, playing jazz, writing a novel, salesmanship, or becoming a brilliant chef.

The only way to become excellent is by doing it,  making mistakes and getting feedback.

Teaching has value but not as much as some people believe. Some think they can teach anything.  While these people are well meaning and somewhat helpful, they tend to cause more trouble than they solve.

In my experience, good teachers know the difference between learning and teaching and weak teachers do not.   The worst problem occurs when parents think they can abdicate the educator role and what the children do not know must then be the fault of the teachers.  Unreasonable expectations hurt everyone but most especially the child.

The reality is threefold:

  1. Most important skills must be learned,
  2. If you offer to teach people everything, they develop the idea that they are not responsible for failure.  The teacher did not do a good a job.
  3. Preventing mistakes is itself a mistake.

Children need to be encouraged to make non-lethal mistakes.  I know that is hard.  Helicopter parents are the antithesis of what works.  By the way, letting them, even helping them, make mistakes is not the end of your duties.  You need to make sure the consequences appear.  By way of atonement for this hardship, you can help them see the connections between the pain, the action and the better approach.

You can command them not to do whatever you are afraid of and they are not, but that will not work for them.  You can lead them after the fact easily and with difficulty before the fact.  Leadership helps them learn and become independent while command makes them dependent.

Consequences and alternatives are the key.  They need to appear or the lesson will remain unlearned.

What would happen if you allowed a 10 year old to borrow against his future allowances?  Let us say he borrows $50 and buys a game cartridge with it.  As part of the deal, he must have his allowance reduced by $2.50 a week until the loan disappears.  By the time he gets it paid off, he will probably understand borrowing.  He will learn, not be taught, that painful payments last longer than joyful acquisition.  Better he learns that lesson at 10 than at 30.

Do not let Grandma bail him/her out either.  A mistake with no message encourages more bad actions.  You get more of  things that you reward and less of the things with adverse consequences.

Some other good learning experiences include eating green apples, smoking cigars, staying up late when you need to go to school the next day, losing your favorite sweater and a thousand or so more.  They help the child to grow as a person.  Make sure the consequences flow.

There are positive lessons to learn too.  Some obvious ones are, finding that most people are willing and able to help, that a job well done is its own reward, that team play is fun, and that giving is more gratifying than receiving.

Your job as parent or a leader is to help create the situations and to draw out the meaning of the lesson.  Teachers can support you but not replace you.

Find the experience of others.  It is the cheapest experience but people are not very good at learning that way.  It is too hard to connect the lesson to the student’s personal reality and feelings.  Share stories from your life, from the newspaper or from TV and the internet.  Use anecdotes, jokes or different versions of the observed experience.   Repetition helps.  Always show an alternative behavior and try to draw out an estimate of how that would have turned out.

You cannot teach something that must be learned.  Do not try.  Provide learning opportunities.   Be a resource or a mentor.  Provide feedback.

You will learn quite a bit about you too.

Get started soon.  There is nothing as gratifying as hearing a child say that they remembered something from long a go and it had come back to help them when they needed the lesson.  The worst of it that you won’t know which lessons are going to be needed.  Be like a plumber, put a lot of tools in the truck, before you send them out to find the problems.

See also

https://moneyfyi.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/should-teachers-teach/

https://moneyfyi.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/what-should-students-learn/

https://moneyfyi.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/thinking-straight-is-a-losing-proposition/

https://moneyfyi.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/the-alchemists-dilemma/

https://moneyfyi.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/more-on-educating-children/  Be sure to check the comments on this one

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