Once again a Nobel Prize has been rewarded to someone who was once labeled by school as not fit for science. -How may times haven’t we heard the story about a great entrepreneur, leader, artist or scientist who was stamped by school as ”unsuitable”, ”lacking talent”, ”not fit for”… The usual discussion that to follows goes like this: schools are out of touch, ignorant teachers are. I believe that this in general is untrue and that these stories stem from something else.
Our educational systems have the more or less explicit mandate to separate the wheat from the chaff, to select and to ”enrich” talent and, with a supposed good intent, advise individuals who are considered lacking in talent or inclination to make choices in life that are better suited for their supposed abilities. The problem is that educational systems have done a very poor job at this and there is a good reason for that: it can’t be done. There is no chance that anyone could predict or forecast what a human being might be able to achieve in 5-10-50 years.
What if we, as an alternative to selection and grading, considered some other options for defining output i schools. Just one suggestion to start with (others will follow in coming blogs):
#1 Exit velocity: what would happen if every school managed to increase the desire to learn, if every student left school with even more drive to improve and strive for excellence? With this view on output it’s not only the relative “level” of a student’s knowledge and skill that matters, more important is “speed” and “direction”, the ambition, motivation to move on. Instead of selecting which students who are fit for higher academic studies by grading them, optimise teaching and learning in order to make as many as possible hungry for higher studies. -Wouldn’t that increase the quality in the whole system?! -Credit to Troed Troedsson who came up with the idea of exit velocity, love it!
A real game changer is when schools define their purpose or output in a broader context (it’s about learning, personal development etc, not only ”knowledge”) and in a longer perspective (the importance of education is determined by its value in the long run, by its worth in your life). David Perkins has brilliantly defined this as ”Lifeworthiness”. I believe that these schools will nurture both new Marie Curies as well as next generation of brilliant professionals in any other field.
I really believe that we could have Nobel laureates all around, if we by that meant that more people thru education found paths that developed their true potential. One step in that direction would be to look more closely how we define output. I don’t think that a school with an idea of exit velocity would have discouraged the young John Gurdon.
*All my friends are Nobel laureates is a paraphrase on one the title of one of my all time favourite books. Buy or borrow and read!