Your Education Initiatives Will Fail

Do the recent education initiatives in America…

  • Race to the Top
  • CCSS
  • NCLB
  • and perhaps all of the many initiatives of the past decade

…have it wrong? Do they miss (entirely) how important play and unstructured time areto learning development and living?

Here is what I found:

……………………………………………………..

“Creative work requires large blocks of unstructured, uninterrupted time.”
– Charles Eames, legendary American designer.

……………………………………………………..

Great things come from real relaxation.
– Stefan Sagmeister. The Power of Time Off 

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“I do my best work when I have long chunks of uninterrupted time. A lot of that time is spent staring at the blackboard or the piece of paper where I scribbled something. But this “staring into space” time is still extremely important! Hilariously represented in this clip from the Big Bang Theory.
– Adriana Salerno. “Learning to Say No”

……………………………………………………..

“What do you do at work?”

“Well, I do a lot of this [leans back in chair with hands interlocked behind head and stares at ceiling].”
– Engineer at Raytheon, working on the Patriot Missile among other projects.

……………………………………………………..

Time is the raw material of creation.
– Kevin Ashton. “Creative People Say No”. Referencing Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the world’s leading researcher on positive psychology.

……………………………………………………..

“Doing nothing may be going too far. Managers play an important role in coordinating complicated activities and disciplining slackers. And some creative people would never finish anything if they were left to their own devices. But there is certainly a case for doing a lot less—for rationing e-mail, cutting back on meetings and getting rid of a few overzealous bosses. Leaning in has been producing negative returns for some time now. It is time to try the far more radical strategy of leaning back.”
– The Economist. “In Praise of Laziness”

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“I block out at 2-3 hours to focus on ONE [important, uncomfortable task] for today.

TO BE CLEAR: Block out at 2-3 HOURS to focus on ONE of them for today. This is ONE BLOCK OF TIME. Cobbling together 10 minutes here and there to add up to 120 minutes does not work.”
– Tim Ferriss. “Productivity Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressive, and Crazy (Like Me)”

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“When creativity is under the gun, it usually ends up getting killed.”
– Harvard Business Review. “Creativity Under the Gun”

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Forty years of research has shown positive correlation between play and children’s learning.
– Learning through Play

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There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—”God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
– Kurt Vonnegut. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

Article XXVIII: Every newborn shall be sincerely welcomed and cared for until maturity.
– Kurt Vonnegut. Timequake

…………………………………………………….

“Big ideas take time.”

 …………………………………………………….

“Being able to play is one of the key developmental tasks of early childhood.6 Play is “the leading source of development in the early years”:7 it is essential to children’s optimal development.8”

“Many of these [modern, social] settings focus on structured educational and recreational activities, leaving little time for participation in open-ended, self-initiated free play.11”
– LET THE CHILDREN PLAY: Nature’s Answer to Early Learning

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“There is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living; there is nothing harder to learn.”
– Seneca

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“Let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.”

“We are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history.”

Parents who work too much tell their children, “I just want you to have what I never did.” The problem with this is that it is just what their parents said. And their parents before them. Which generation gets to just live?
– Brene Brown

…………………………………………………….

Seek to provide social spaces and unstructured time for staff interaction.
– University of Surry. “Legitimizing Creativity”

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“Unsolicited Evaluation Is the Enemy of Creativity.”
– Psychology Today. “Freedom to Learn”

…………………………………………………….

“The charette-driven, when’s-the-deadline mindset might be a good way to force yourself through the resistance, but it has a huge cost–you will be judged. The market will not judge you by how much work you did, we will judge you by how it works and looks and feels. And that comes from polish, and polish cannot be rushed.”
– Seth Godin. “The three toxic stooges of the project apocalypse”
[charette (n): an intense period of design or planning activity]

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“What really makes us intelligent isn’t our ability to find lots of information quickly. It’s our ability to think deeply about that information. And deep thinking, brain scientists have discovered, happens only when our minds are calm and attentive. The greater our concentration, the richer our thoughts.”
– Nicholas Carr. “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains”

…………………………………………………….

“We prepare children to learn how to learn, not how to take a test,”

“Play is important at this age,” Rintola would later say. “We value play.”
– Smithsonian. “Why Are Finland’s Schools Successful?”

…………………………………………………….

“The U.S. has an industrial model where teachers are the means for conveying a prefabricated product. In Finland, the teachers are the standard.”

“Their teachers are much better prepared to teach physics than we are, and then the Finns get out of the way. You don’t buy a dog and bark for it,” says Dan MacIsaac, a specialist in physics-teacher education at Buffalo State College who visited Finland for two months. “In the U.S., they treat teachers like pizza delivery boys and then do efficiency studies on how well they deliver the pizza.”
– Time. “Finnishing School”

…………………………………………………….

My conclusion: When you make kids performers, rather than creators, you destroy their future. This cannot be overstated. Performers will dread learning, hate their job, struggle in relationships, avoid taking action.

There is no way around it: teachers and students must be given time.

For everyone not in school: You have to, individually, make time for yourself or earn time through intentional effort. No one else is going to make time for you, just as no one is going to get you in shape. You earn time by busting your butt and by disciplining your time. You earn time by completing tasks early and saying “No”, to yourself and to other people.

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One comment

  1. That excellent discussion came from someone who took the time to give the subject much thought and deliberation. The principles are sooo true. Consider Google and their work culture that flies in the face of every other known I/O culture and yet… they produce. I love what you wrote about:

    “There is no way around it: teachers and students must be given time.”

    “For everyone not in school: You have to, individually, make time for yourself or earn time through intentional effort. No one else is going to make time for you, just as no one is going to get you in shape. You earn time by busting your butt and by disciplining your time. You earn time by completing tasks early and saying “No”, to yourself and to other people.”

    Yes, life, real life, is about finding balance; even in doing coursework, it takes time to get into the flow… like an Olympic athlete, like a world-class musician, like the best thinkers of all time. Genius takes… well, time and getting into the flow!

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