You Can Do Anything!

I’ve just read this article on TES, entitled ‘Why education needs more fuzzy thinking’. In the article, Ewan McIntosh proposes a “fuzzy world” of education where there are “activities that help students to learn for themselves, synthesise complex information, generate large numbers of ambitious ideas and build prototypes”. It is also an education where there is “almost no content”.

I’ll ignore the fear mongering attempted with his entirely irrelevant reference to terrorism, but McIntosh finishes by telling us: “We don’t need people who know about history; we need people who can think like historians to help us prevent future conflicts.”

How does he think historians think like historians? Does he really assume they can think the way they do without knowing about history?

These sorts of suggestions from experts make me cross. They make me cross because the expert seems to have spectacular amnesia about the content that they have consumed and the knowledge that they have built up over the many years that has led them to their expertise. As such, they seem to assume that they are just innately skilled and so further assume that such innate skill can just be brought out of children, and the passing on of knowledge is entirely absent in the process. This is not only wrong, it’s selfish. It says: I’ve had a good education which has put me in the position I am in, but I’m not going to offer you the same standards of education I had.

Anyway, I couldn’t help reading that article without thinking of this brilliant Saturday Night Live sketch:

McIntosh’s article is just missing these lines:

Now, thanks to technology… it doesn’t matter if you have skills or training or years of experience: you can do it! You can do anything!

The world needs more singer-songwriters and fewer doctors and engineers.

If you think you’re talented, then you are.

I await the revised version of the article.

14 thoughts on “You Can Do Anything!”

  1. It’s good to have regular reminders that there really are knowledgeable people writing articles in respectable journals who believe that children don’t need to be taught any knowledge. We wouldn’t want to get complacent and start thinking a new era of sanity had dawned!

    1. But still people will tell you: nobody really thinks that.

      As you suggest, we should be grateful to Mr McIntosh for reminding us that some people really do.

      1. Still, the undermining of knowledge rich education is going to take ever subtler forms in coming years. The debate over my post on research homeworks was an interesting case. There are those who believe that specifying clear content and requiring that pupils master it constitutes ‘brainwashing’. So although they agree that knowledge needs to be taught, they want to make it all a bit vague. They don’t really want to take responsibility for specifying *what* knowledge.

      1. The article – I thought it might be a clever spoof. On a second reading it appears that someone (either deluded or a charlatan or both) has managed to make a great deal of money from some large and foolish companies. I’m not sure that it has much bearing on education in schools. however, I have only read the shorter freely available text.

  2. I get really irate over this too. It is even worse when you say “I have some knowledge built up through years of doing X, Y or Z job that I’d like to share with children” and you just get the following reply “Well, your expertise counts for nothing because children these days don’t need any of that knowledge-malarkey. Also, I’ve been a teacher many years and my experience of having fun lessons with 5 years olds is way more important than any of that calculus stuff that you can do.”

    1. Gosh dang that knowledge malarkey! Who needs it! Throw it out the window! Let’s all just play and explore and be engaged instead! Hooray 🙂

  3. Come now, people, you are all too harsh. Can’t you see the possibilities opened by this “activities that help students to learn for themselves” ? So, I propose we close down medical schools. Get them into OR on the first day, give them a scalpel and let them learn for themselves. Can’t you see what this will accomplish? It’ll save millions of £ we spend on teaching them and it’ll cut waiting times right down. So, please before you dismiss this out of hand do consider the possibilities.

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