Not Being Stupid

stupidI recently read a fantastic post about making sure the education system is teaching us how to think. The BBC article, A five-step guide to not being stupid by David Robson suggests that we need to amp up the way we are teaching children.

He said, “The problem, says Robert Sternberg at Cornell University, is that our education system is not designed to teach us to think in a way that is useful for the rest of life. “The tests we use – the SATs or A-levels in England – are very modest predictors of anything besides school grades,” he says. “You see people who get very good grades, and then they suck at leadership. They are good technicians with no common sense, and no ethics. They get to be the president or vice-president of corporations and societies and they are massively incompetent.”

What can be done? Sternberg and others are now campaigning for a new kind of education that teaches people how to think more effectively, alongside more traditional academic tasks.”

The article suggests a couple of things to make sure we are truly teaching what REAL learning is all about. How best to accomplish these ideas is an entirely different conversation:

Some takeaways for me from the article:

Bias that prevent us from true learning: We do not really teach our children in school what it means to have original thought. “Confirmation bias”  means only picking opinions, research, evidence, and data that supports one viewpoint exists, as opposed to considering all viewpoints in order to formulate a stable argument.  There is also “”bias blind-spot  – a tendency to deny flaws in your own thinking.”

These absolutely makes sense. In a world full of information, it is hard to know facts because people are used to borrowing concepts and ideas from others with no true original thought. Even this article is borrowing on the though of someone else. I once heard that music in this century is no longer original – because the chords, cadences, movements, etc., have all been done somehow, somewhere. While I haven’t looked into this, and without the risk of offending all musicians out there, the point is that we need to teach the value of original thought and improve confidences of original thought.

Owning that you are wrong: Whoa, that is a big one. I remember speaking with a colleague who informed me of a big mistake that could have had some interesting repercussions. I admitted my mistake without saying, “I’m sorry, but….” I told him that I had made the mistake and apologized and asked what we could to to mitigate any risks. I could tell he was waiting for some explanation, because that is what is so commonplace. I am still unsure of his side of the story, but his reaction was to look at me unbelieving that I admitted my mistake.

Pick fights with yourself: I love this quote, “… internal argument can puncture many of the most resilient biases – such as overconfidence, and “anchoring” – the tendency to be convinced by the first piece of evidence that floats your way.”

What if: the kind of learning we teach our children doesn’t allow for flexibility. By participating in what if, it allows minds to expand to so that when the unexpected occurs in their lives, they are not thrown a curve ball in life and can find solutions because their mind has developed the capacity to be flexible, particularly in difficult circumstances. It is a different way to problem solve and gives children a unique lens that seems to be missing right now.

Don’t assume you remember everything: Even in situations where you feel like you know all the rules, it is best to make a checklist. The author gives an example of how making a checklist of keeping up standards of hygiene in a doctor’s office can actually save hundreds of lives. When the going gets tough, it is time to remember the basics – and if a checklist is what is needed to be organized, do it.

The author ends with this quote from Sternberg who was once considered “stupid” because of his academic standing: “”Intelligence isn’t a score on an IQ test – it’s the ability to figure what you want in life and finding ways to achieve that,” he says – even if that involves some painful self-awareness of your own follies.”