Therefore, when I saw a graphic this past week made up of two frames, the thought of him helped me make sense of what I was viewing. In this graphic, the frame on the left was titled “Knowledge”; it was a simple box with a black outline, filled with random black dots. The frame on the right was titled “Experience”; this second box was exactly like the first with a simple black outline, filled with random black dots, but in this box the dots were all connected by thin black lines.
A simple graphic on the surface. Profound in its meaning for education.
My dad is the epitome of the “Experience” box. Sure, he would do well on Jeopardy because of his great memory for miscellaneous factoids, but it’s because of his life experiences he is so smart. It has been his experiences that connect his dots; his experiences that allow his knowledge to shine. Without a lifetime of opportunities to put his knowledge of math, English, history, language and science to work, these subjects he learned back in the 1950’s would be meaningless. Because he had opportunities in his life to work with the earliest computers, travel the world in the Navy, and experiment with his career, he can seamlessly make connections between seemingly disconnected events. He can find solutions to insurmountable challenges. He can make sense of the senseless.
What does all this mean for education, though?
It means our kids need opportunities to put their knowledge to work, because it’s these opportunities that will become the experiences, creating a generation who can build, fix, sell, question, inspire and invent. Our kids needs these experiences during school – time to volunteer, work part time, build small businesses, invent new programs, solve real problems, grow gardens, take apart old electronics, swim, play, travel. With these experiences, and with us supporting them along the way, our kids will walk out of high school with more than just a box filled with historical dates, comma rules, and memorized facts.
Our teachers can help by providing assignments with real audiences. They can stop with the meaningless, rote homework. Stop with the quiz, after test, after assessment cycle. Stop with the mundane worksheet lessons recycled year-over-year.
As a community, we need to ask our schools to start helping our kids not only fill the box on the left, but also make connections between those dots in order to ensure their success in our interconnected world. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Thanks, Dad, for reminding me that facts are the foundation, but it’s in the experience wherein the wisdom lies.