Stop Teaching Students WHAT to Think. Teach Them HOW to Think.

in #basicincome3 years ago

For more than a century, we've been creating an industrial workforce of human automatons, built for the purpose of performing routine labor not yet doable by machines. And we've been operating with the mindset that we should teach students the same way we program actual machines. In the 20th century, schooling became a process of information upload in which students are to be filled with all the appropriate data and applications to function as cogs in the machinery of factories and offices, or in the parlance of today, as walking hard drives.

robots in school
Image source: Inspiration Room

Modern mass production did more than increase efficiency. It chopped up work into simpler components in which one small task could be repeated day in and day out without thought and without knowledge of the whole. Centuries ago, shoes were made by hand, by one skilled person who made the entire shoe. And then hundreds of people became involved in making one shoe with one relatively unskilled person doing nothing but attaching soles all day, every day. Now that machines can perform all the tasks in making an entire shoe, what happens to the humans who were programmed to operate the machines?

Human-automaton creation must end. To succeed in a world of automation will require being as unmachinelike as possible. The entire education system will need to be retooled around no longer teaching kids what to think but how to think. Memorization of facts is pointless in a world where everyone carries around the entire knowledge base of the human species on their person.

The challenge is not information storage but information processing. It's not about information itself but how to use information. The teaching of creativity, curiosity, critical thinking, analytical thinking, problem-solving, and a love of learning itself will be critical to transitioning from the industrial age to the automated age. Learning how to collaborate and empathize with others will be key. To be human is not to be a lone robot performing a singular task in a vacuum but to be a member of the whole of humanity contributing in countless interdependent ways, including even entirely unpaid ways. This will require nothing less than a redefinition of work itself.

Most people when they talk about the future of work are talking about the future of paid work. But the future of work must recognize all work. Take, for example, someone editing Wikipedia, or contributing code to the open-source code-sharing platform GitHub, or even simply taking care of a family member in the same way any paid care worker would. All of that is important work but would be done for purpose, not pay.

It is for this reason that unconditional basic income—a cash stipend starting everyone above the poverty line each month—needs to be a key characteristic of the future of work. That way, as paid work is automated, humans can focus more on all the work that needs to be done, in the ways that most engage them.

For some, there will be jobs as we know them today, although perhaps in far shorter shifts than eight hours a day, five days a week. For others, this will be a return to the universe of self-employed artisanship, in which unique creations are handmade from beginning to end, where platforms, like Etsy, reveal a glimpse of what the future could hold. And for still others, this will be creation for the sake of creation by prosumers, who both create and consume goods and services, all for free, in a new kind of economy built around reputation, instead of remuneration.

To succeed in the future will require rediscovering what it means to be truly human. Mark Twain once said the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. In the decades ahead, our jobs as humans will be finding our ways to our "whys." And education must be reoriented accordingly.


This article of mine was originally published on Education Weekly as part of their Special Report on Schools and the Future of Work.


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Thinking skills are critical. The education system will have failed if students are not able to think for themselves.

I'll read the article later, but the title alone was worth an upvote and follow.

The most important traits for people to have in an increasingly volatile and unpredictable world are going to be adaptability, creativity, and resilience. Teaching people how to access and unleash the power of their own brains is of paramount importance.

I agree with your comment. We need to break away from the same old model in which the few profit from the efforts and the creativity of the many. This is why a site like Steemit is so attractive. No matter what one earns on a post, it is more than was given to them by those on Facebook or Reddit.

Society, as a whole, needs to embrace and expand this idea.

Thank you, and followed back as well. I hope for our own sake that we can begin to teach kids how to think for themselves instead of how to obey authority.

The Pledge of Allegiance and this whole sports debacle around the national anthem and flag makes me cringe. People have absolutely been conditioned. I remember once in high school when I went to a Rage Against the Machine concert, and they brought out the flag, turned it upside down, and spray painted an anarchy "A" on it and I remember feeling uneasy about it. So deep the indoctrination goes that even at a RATM concert, that gave me pause. It's insane to make 5 year olds do the pledge.

I agree completely.

We need to change the definition of work. For some reason, many cling to this idea of the "Protestant" work ethic where one's worth is derived based upon the work he/she does and the time/commitment to doing it. I think this absurd.

Here is a new way of thinking....one has worth simply because he or she exists no matter what the profession.

I said for year, if you are on welfare and go to the park to pick up trash, you are a drain on society. However, if you pick up trash at the park and you have your name on your shirt along with the City of SoandSo, you are doing your job and contributing. Same actions for probably the same money but different perspectives.

We are going to see this become more mainstream in the next couple years as technology starts to disrupt many industries and unemployment due to automation really starts to creep in.

Excellent article.

Good post, I have been thinking of creating a similar post. Something related to how we can cope with the Tremendous changes happening in almost all the facets of our lives. Our world is evolving to a more sophisticated paradigm. and it's very important that we unlearn what is no longer working, relearn the things that are becoming obsolete and finally learn the new things that are before us. Through this way, we will keep up with whatever change that will take place.
Students should also be allowed to think outside the box and explore beyond the obvious.

This is a great article about an important subject.
There are countries in the world that do have different teaching styles and students that have only 4 hours of school and no homework at all. And these countries are doing a pretty good job for their students.
Alas, in North America we are failing our students.
My brother was a teacher and a principal most of his life and I remember him saying that education is basically babysitting.
Students today are very graphically oriented and many are quite good artists because of this, thanks to TV and video games. However, when it comes to the English language they are complete failures. I have read many articles from a lot of news services that are riddled with spelling errors. I happen to love the English language. It is a powerful way of expressing ourselves because we have so many words to use.
Back in the 50's and 60's when I went to school teachers didn't know about ADD (I have ADD and I am slightly autistic) My teachers just thought I was stupid! But I went back to school when I was 50 and got my degree in programming because I wasn't ever going to be put into a box and wear a label all my life!
I believe we are teaching kids the wrong subjects. Yes, some students are gifted but 80% of them are just average (pareto's law).
Many people today are academically smart, but don't have a lick of common sense!
I could go on but I think you understand. We need a shift in our education system.

Thanks for a great article!

.....upvoted and resteemed

This whole "memorization of facts" thing drives me crazy as well. Coming from a different country when I heard about testing in the US I was amazed - entire complex subjects reduced to streams of A to E multiple-choice (or is it multiple guess?) questions. This seems to be so prevalent now that I half-jokingly call the Gen Y and Millenials "Generation A to E", at least the context of education. No wonder there are serious people telling kids to just skip university altogether and focus on doing stuff.

My testing at school and university in the 70s and 80s was almost exclusively free format answers to questions. Yes even for sciences and mathematics. That's what I guess Americans call "essay questions". Unpopular with teachers because they are harder to grade, easier to fall foul of subjective grading but boy do they exercise the students mind better. They are also far harder for students to cheat on. Show your method, show your reasoning. It also has the bonus of partial grades if you get the right method but flub on the right answer due to silly error in the math, the equivalent of a typo. A multiple choice test for maths would never allow that.

Besides, work that can be done purely by recalling facts - that's highly automatable. Work that requires reason, subjective nuance, and judgment, or even imagination and innovation based on algorithms and methods rather than results - that's much less tractable to the application of automation. Or at least it will be lower down on the list of things to get automated.

And yes, doing jobs where you actually have to think and give a bit of yourself to the task rather than just putting pegs in holes all day - has to be more fulfilling right? Assuming you are not one of those who was raised to loathe thinking - perhaps because they are lazy and just want to be entertained 24/7, but perhaps because they are contrarian thinkers, or didn't fit the "style" of classroom education and had speaking up and thinking for themselves beaten out of them at an early age (hopefully not literally, although in my day that was still a distinct possibility in the extreme case).

This a great article and really makes you think about the future of the human workforce. We must learn to adapt and find value in what we as humans have to offer. More and more companies are moving to digital, automated, etc.

most this post very nice on the id and on this vote

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I don't disagree with you, in fact, I'm of the same line of thinking, but I want to explore some other explanation as to why our education system is so inadequate.


"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence"

Maybe our teachers are simply unqualified to teach. I have in my circle of accquantance those who've gone into the teaching professor simply because there was nothing else available that offers the same benefits.

Most of them are ill-qualified to teach subjects such as mathematics and science. They do not have the training nor the interest in the subject matter. As such, they simply follow the curriculum blindly, assigning homework page by page, without understanding the reason for the progression.


Too little time is spent teaching and learning.

Most of the time spent in a school day, both for the student and the teacher, is rather meaningless in regards to education.

The handling of paperwork, going to and from staff meeting and grading homework takes up most of a teacher's time.

Getting to and from school, socializing, and day-dreaming takes up most of a student's time.

very little time is left for actual learning.


These are just two, I'm sure there are many more.

Finally...a great post about a serious crisisin the whole world. They have created a bunch of robots who depend on the system to survive and its not because they want to be that way,its because they were taught that way. Something has to change.

Excellent post. John Taylor Gatto would be proud ;)

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You caught my attention with the title... Beautiful write up!