By MICHAEL ZINN
May 24, 2018
“I’d like to make a request of our educators: please welcome the question “why,” and even go so far as to encourage it.”
A few days ago, I was showing several professors a presentation I had made for college. As I presented the slides one after the other, one of the professors interjected, “You should only have one slide per minute,” she said.
Taken back by her suggestion, I paused a moment, and responded with a poignant question of my own: “Why?” I asked.
we have deemphasized critical thinking, supplanting it with the memorization and regurgitation of information.
The professor thought about it, and after a few moments of silence said she couldn’t think of a specific reason.
While possibly embarrassing for the professor, this brief exchange is indicative of a larger trend in American education: we have deemphasized critical thinking, supplanting it with the memorization and regurgitation of information.
Certainly, most of us can recollect a few theories, but we rarely question the foundations in which those theories were formed. As a result, we never actually understand the context in which that theory/information is relevant, and more importantly, we often fail to adapt it to the real world.
For those just entering the job market, the disconnect between the academic world, and the real world can make for a painful experience.
In the real world, things are messy, time and money are always a constraint, and as a result, the perfect solution is rarely viable. But, what can be even harder, is that our knowledge rarely directly maps to the problems we’re faced with. We often need to adapt them, duct taping disparate pieces of knowledge to form a viable solution.
In essence, in the real world, we must adapt our knowledge to the problem, whereas in college professors adapt the problems to our knowledge.
In the real world, things are messy, time and money are always a constraint, and as a result, the perfect solution is rarely viable.
Finally, I’d like to make a request of our educators: please welcome the question “why,” and even go so far as to encourage it. It will not only expand your understanding of the subject but dramatically improve your students’ critical thinking ability.
Rather than emphasizing memorization suited to standardized tests, challenge your students to adapt the information to solve real world problems. In doing so, your students will have a far more intimate understanding of the subject matter than flipping through flashcards at 2:00 A.M. could ever provide.
Remember: when we rely on rules of thumb, guidelines for the average (insert whatever), all we get is average results.
It’s only when we pushed the boundaries of ideas, test the possibilities, that we achieve the extraordinary.