Friday, February 21, 2014

Education–More Than Just the Three Rs

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education. - Albert Einstein

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. - William Butler Yeats

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. – Derek Bok

As I observe a number of parents in Canada complaining in the last 24 hours that schools allowed children to forego their lessons so that the kids could watch Olympic hockey, I can’t help but wonder if we have lost sight of what education really is.

When I think back to the teachers I had over the years (many great but not all), a few teachers come to mind:

Mrs. Rowe (grades 1-3), who encouraged me to expand my reading interests by taking the time during recess, lunchtime and after school to introduce me to far more complex books than were promoted in the curriculum.  By the time I was in grade 5, I had read every encyclopedia the local library had (cover-to-cover).  With a hunger for knowledge thus lit at such a young age, I still never have less than 10 books on the go simultaneously.

Mr. Morgan (grade 10), whose booming voice saying “it’s the lazy man who watches the clock” for anyone caught peeking at their watch during geometry class as he taught us the value of focus and prioritization.  His spontaneous lunchtime talks (while patrolling the school corridors) demonstrated how to apply geometry theorems to world problems and provided, I believe, the foundation for my need to back up assertions with facts – a foundational element of the strategy career that was to come years later.

Mr. Hiscock (grade 11), who, one day in April of 1981, rolled a 14” TV (remember those?) into his history classroom because, as he said, “we were watching history being made today”.  We watched the landing of the first space shuttle on live TV and marvelled at it.

Mr. Gill (grade 10), whose seemingly childlike fascination with physics invited us to fly rockets, join math clubs and recognize that math and science were FUN.

There were many more but the point is this.

In our “busyness” to work out the kinks in “the new math”, to question what books should be promoted or banned, to figure out how to get more done with less or to figure out what the job title for teachers should be (how do you label an educator, event coordinator, administrator, couple mediator, counsellor, fisticuff preventer, motivator, problem solver, problem preventer, sad child soother, etc. – all rolled into one body), I wonder if we are losing sight of an important element of education. <<To all of my English teachers – my apology for the run-on sentence :-) >>

Most of us don’t remember the evolution of specific parts of our brains when it comes to the three Rs.

But we do remember the little things that teachers did to help us evolve as human beings.

So if the kids miss a few hours of readin’, ritin’ or ‘rithmatic once in a while, leave them (and the teachers) alone.

The children may be learning something far more important.

They (and their parents) just don’t know it yet.

Dedicated to the thousands of teachers who are tasked with the near impossible job of transforming hyperactive, unfocused, undisciplined, moldable minds into intellectual, respectful, focused human beings …. oftentimes with a LOT less support than they need and deserve.

As a long time strategy advisor and large-scale technology architect who has worked on some of the most complex business projects in the world, I couldn’t do what they do.

Can you?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


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