AUTOTELIC LEARNER, MODULAR MIND, ANACHRONISTIC SCHOOL
I fear this post may be an example of public rumination on my part as I am simply reflecting on many inspirations: a recent conversation with a research neuropsychiatrist; reading Howard Gardner's Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century
; Dan of tdaxp's
posts "Fingertip Feeling, and Other Implications of a Modular Mind
", "Time, Orientation, Universalism, and Vocab: Notes from Chapter 2 of "Adapting Minds" by David J. Buller
", "Social Teaching Strategies
" and "Genetic and Experiential Individuality
" ( the latter inspired by J.R
. of Edgewise
who asked Dan as well as myself via email about Rudiger Gamm
Pondering these things is leading me in the direction of concluding that the public school system will only be successfully reformed if it is redesigned with the primary objective of producing autotelic learners
. Such an outcome would certainly be beneficial for the students whose productive working life may stretch to America's tricentennial and who will have to demonstrate nimble cognitive adaptivity in order to prosper through waves of technological and societal changes.
Unfortunately, such an objective runs counter to:
a) the priorities of the American educational establishment who are deeply invested in the current institutional structure of public schools and universities, a highly regimented, 19th and early-mid 20th century, mass-system, hybrid.
b) the political and social goals of public education's harshest conservative critics, who while open to considering radical changes in institutional structure, are often inclined to authoritarian models of curricular instruction that actively deter the emergence of genuinely independent thought.
These are very broad generalizations. Exceptions exist of course.
Students today live at the onset of a radical globalization and violent countervailing forces amply detailed by Dr. Barnett
That however is not the entire longitudinal picture. Consider just these few fields of research:NanotechnologyQuantum ComputingGenetic EngineeringAi
There are others, say Complexity, Network, String theories, Brain research and so on. The list can be increased or reduced but the point remains the same. Each of these fields are in a different stage of development but all have the potential to yield results with significant to highly significant society changing effects. And all are likely to intersect during the lifetime of today's kindergarten student. Thus, they face a near-future world that may- from the standpoint of society if not biology - have not just one but many potential points of "singularity
". To say that these students will need to be resilient
in the face of these changes is the acme of understatement.
What are we doing today to prepare these students ? Not all that much. NCLB
, which is a stupidly blunt and economically wasteful instrument, has laudable goals of enforcing a national minimal standard of content richness, student skill mastery and teacher quality. It is about raising the floor a little, not about fixing the collapsing roof, broken wndows or decaying walls. Neurolearning research has, for some time, demonstrated evidence that the human brain has the quality of modularity but the educational system up to a least the undergraduate level continues, predominantly, to push instruction in a starkly linear fashion.
And American education will continue to do so, despite the best intentions of its teachers or political leaders or legislative mandates, because that is what it is structurally designed to do and can do nothing else.UPDATE:Dan of tdaxp ponders the question further.