Sunday, July 19, 2009

Good Discussion Going on About 'Big Picture' Education

I recently posted about a topic started by the Drs. Eide, regarding the lack of 'Big Picture' thinking, teaching, and learning in our educational system. These two posts were then picked up by my good friend Zenpundit, after we had a good discussion over lunch a few days ago. Himself a stellar educator and deep-thinking analyst, Zen took the baton and presented his support of the notion that we are regressing in education, largely driven by the implementation of No Child Left Behind and high-stakes testing, and this has all led to a wonderful discussion thread you can follow from Zen's post.

Zen and others have brought up the near desperate need for high-level thinkers who have been trained and educated, at least in part within a 'big picture' framework, because this is precisely what is required for long-range, strategic thinking, planning and implementation. Society has largely been focused on short-range, today-to-tomorrow thinking and planning, and this is not at all what is required in this day and age. Many tend to forget, or worse have not been exposed to, history; perhaps this is because much of what we are taught in history classes boils down to memorizing dates and facts, rather than true analysis of cause and effect of particular policy or action that led to specific consequences, which in turn led to other may be guessing, correctly, I am implying a lack of big picture thinking in history, too.

This type of longer term strategic thinking is and has been for some time largely absent from our policitical leaders. This is driven from the need to post today's and yesterday's results and accomplishments, rather than where such and such policy will lead us in ten, twenty or fifty years from now, because of the desire to extend one's career by winning the next election. And why do politicians do this? It is like any other market - politicians sell the electorate what the electorate wants to hear, and that is short-term results, because that is how the electorate has been trained to think in school.

I like what was posted at Red Herrings regarding this discussion:

"I think the problem in many ways goes even deeper. How much has a focus on the minimum required effort, intellectual instant gratification and a lack of any kind of emphasis or training in long-term thinking affected the very culture of the United States and contributed to a range of problems from obesity and political apathy to over-spending and the credit crisis.

How we teach becomes how we learn, and how we learn becomes how we think. We teach to the test. We learn the minimum required to reach the minimum standard. We think no farther than the next chapter, the next test, the next evaluation, the next paycheck, the next credit card payment. We have stopped thinking about year five much less year twenty five of a thirty year mortgage, and the same thinking horizon applies to health and political decision making. It isn’t about intelligence. There are many very smart people out there who are very good, very fast, thinkers, and if we have gained any kind of skill in dealing with “complex, dynamic, fast moving situations” it is only because we are in a constant state of flux, constantly in crisis mode, and constantly trying to squeeze advantage at best and survival at minimum, out of the bad situations we constantly find ourselves in. That takes skill and inventiveness, but not everyone is that quick, innovative or lucky. However, long-term, strategic thinking in advance of a crisis could have prevented those situations from ever adversely impacting us or even turned them into opportunities to further our goals."

I highly recommend reading through the various comments and links to posts about this topic.

No comments: