Updated: Aug 28, 2022
Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with science.
What does that have to do with education?
Science is the bedrock of modern-day education. As a society, understanding science’s contributions to how we educate children is important. If there are issues with how our children are responding to the current educational paradigm, there are issues with the scientific theories on which our educational models are built.
Let me further explain my opening statement:
What I love about science is that it recognizes theories as always subject to reinterpretation. We give ourselves permission to grow in our understanding of a topic, to learn how it interlays with other subjects, and to commit to continuous discovery.
What I hate about science is that many people forget that scientific theories are always subject to reinterpretation. When we fail to amass refuting arguments, we internalize these theories as inherent beliefs - which is hugely problematic.
Science only applies to topics that can be falsified. If there is no way to prove a theory false, it does not fit within the realm of science. Also, all scientific truths are corroborated. Meaning, science provides us with the best truth for now and an expectation that we will arrive at a better truth tomorrow. Scientific facts are continuously subject to review, which is why it’s problematic when people treat scientific theories as inherent beliefs.
We often forget that science is also influenced by personal interests, social economics, and politics. Developmental theorists such as Watson, Skinner, Piaget and Vygotsky are the founding fathers of modern education. There were significant interests in compulsory schooling and politics that influenced their findings. Yet, we blindly accept that their interpretations of child psychology largely hold true (FYI, there are serious flaws in all of their theories).
Also, there’s a lot of subjectivity in objective observances. Scientists are people like you and I. You and I can attend to the same stimulus and have different, though equally compelling, stories to share based on our findings. Neither of us is wrong. This is commonplace. Let us remember that there was a time when scientists thought the earth was flat.
Key lesson: Many voices sharing one opinion, does not increase the validity of that point of view over that one voice that disagrees.
A scientific discovery is “trending” when other individuals share our interpretations. As popularity increases, social and political interests often silence refuting arguments for simplicities' sake. The dominant view, diluted for the media and general consumption, becomes normalized into our worldview. People speak to it at cocktail parties, bend to it in how they frame new information, and abide by these “scientific nuggets” in their treatment of related topics, and voilà, it transforms from scientific theory into a widely held belief. We cling to these theories, as though they were universal truths, until we receive poignant, unequivocal, unshakeable evidence that there are better and alternate interpretations of facts.
Linking this train of thought back to education: There is no “right” way to learn. There are many ways to learn, and just as many ways to teach. Yet, rather than criticizing the educational system for lacking the dexterity to accommodate different learning styles and needs, we preserve the sanctity of education, as it is presently, and choose to marginalize the children that don’t fit.
Case in point: one child learns to read at four, the other at nine years of age. In normal development, when both are 13, you cannot tell which one learned first. Yet your school’s administration will label one child as “learning disabled” and the other is forced to slow down. What's worse, the weight of these labels have long lasting negative effects on children, yet have nothing to do with their individual potential.
A little known fact: the bell curve is actually borrowed from an Egyptian theology that references the scarcity of human value. The most valuable of us represented by the narrow peak of a pyramid, the further down the pyramid you find yourself… you get the point. Presently, this theology takes on a scientific posture, within the "laws of biology," assuming that talent apportions itself along the bell curve in relation to our value to society.
This is the true definition of science fiction. The bell curve model is completely unfounded.
Our school curriculum was built to accommodate job market needs of the Industrial Revolution. The bell curve is an efficient way to allocate human resources for the evolving market. All to say, our educational model is archaic and needs reform.
Learning needs to adopt free market choices. Variety that speaks to every need, every learning profile and every interest. If we can customize our Starbuck’s coffee, it should not appear to be so outlandish as to customize our learning and development programs to our interests and our aptitudes. Imagine graduating and feeling confident, capable, and able to seamlessly transition into adulthood, unmarred by the traumas in the classroom and on the playground.
That’s the future I want to create.
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