That Does Not Make You Brilliant; It Makes You a Sociopath

In her essay, “A Thousand Rivers,award-winning film director Carol Black writes of Iain McGilchrist, a psychiatrist and neuroimaging researcher and author of the groundbreaking book, The Master and his Emissary

[The book] argues that the narrowly focused, mechanical, analytic part of the brain so dominant in modern societies actually evolved as a limited tool to be guided and restrained by the more broadly focused, holistic, relationship-based part of the brain.

Modern western civilization, McGilchrist maintains, is not more “advanced” than other human societies, but rather has become dangerously unbalanced in the direction of a kind of cold, abstracted, mechanical analysis at the expense of a more interconnected, compassionate, holistic understanding of the world. That kind of imbalance, as McGilchrist points out, does not make you more “brilliant” than other people; it makes you a sociopath.

From “A Thousand Rivers,” by Carol Black
via Schooling the World

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With All the Thoughtfulness of a Sneeze

Alfie Kohn on the ranking of American students vis a vis the rest of the world:

If our reason for emphasizing students’ relative standing (rather than their absolute achievement) has to do with “competitiveness in the 21st-century global economy” — a phrase that issues from politicians, businesspeople, and journalists with all the thoughtfulness of a sneeze, then we would do well to ask two questions. The first, based on values, is whether we regard educating children as something that’s primarily justified in terms of corporate profits.

The second question, based on facts, is whether the state of a nation’s economy is meaningfully affected by the test scores of students in that nation. Various strands of evidence have converged to suggest that the answer is no.

And:

To focus on rankings is not only irrational but morally offensive. If our goal is for American kids to triumph over those who live elsewhere, then the implication is that we want children who live in other countries to fail, at least in relative terms.  We want them not to learn successfully just because they’re not Americans. That’s built into the notion of “competitiveness” (as opposed to excellence or success), which by definition means that one individual or group can succeed only if others don’t. This is a troubling way to look at any endeavor, but where children are concerned, it’s indefensible.

Read the entire article here.

Post-Obedient

It’s not uncommon for teenagers to whine that there’s nothing to do in this town. Or for college students to talk about the limits of their institution, about the paucity of opportunities at the placement office or the lack of campus activities. And of course, those that complain that the boss won’t let me.

All three complaints are based on a view of the world that requires permission and easy access.

In the connection economy, the valuable asset is the ability to convene. When we are able to initiate, to make something happen and to be trusted, we not only create value, we create a life.

~Seth Godin, on Adoping a Post-Obedient Mindset

Learning Without School

Kio Stark , on gaining a sense of competence and assessing your personal progress by showing others what you’ve learned and focusing on projects. She’s talking (mostly) about alternatives to college & grad school, but her point applies to learning of all kinds, at any age.

You need to create a feedback loop that confirms your work is worth it and keeps you moving forward. In school this is provided by advancing through the steps of the linear path within an individual class or a set curriculum, as well as from feedback in the form of grades and praise.

Outside of school, people I talked to got their sense of competence from many sources. Many reported to me that they often turn around and teach what they’ve learned to others as soon as they’ve learned it. This gives them a sense of mastery and deepens their understanding.

When their learning is structured around a specific project, successful completion and functioning of the project proves their progress. Projects can include making a computer program, constructing a book, making a film, writing about an unfamiliar topic, starting a business, or learning a skill.

Projects give you a goal for learning skills and abstract information alike, and contribute to gaining a sense of mastery and competence as you complete them.

~Kio Stark, Don’t Go Back to School

Against the Grain

Penelope Trunk writes about going against the (school) grain and getting a great job:

(H)ere’s the big takeaway. A fundamental shift is taking place, where the path to getting a job is massively circumventing college credentials. And, at the same time, the American public is fed up with the insane debt that college are expecting new grads to take on in order to graduate. (…)

The biggest barrier to accepting the radical new nature of the job hunt is the reverberations throughout the rest of life. If you don’t need school for work, and you don’t need school for learning, then all you need school for is so parents can go to work and not worry about taking care of their kids.

Read the entire post here.