Sunday, July 10, 2011

Perhaps content is still King

“ I want you to think outside the box"

What a strange request to make of a student.

The box I will assume  represents the sum of human knowledge and understanding or at least the sum of the stuff you are trying to teach.

If you request that the student think outside the box then are you not asking for the student to undertake thinking which is unconnected to current thinking.

What value does that have?

The only examples that comes to mind  of unconnected thinking might better characterised as madness.

Thinking  'Outside the box' is what might be called creative thinking. Creative thinking is connected to the box, has knowledge of the box, and extends understanding at the edges of the box. To be connected is to have knowledge that is within the box, what might otherwise be known as content.

Yet some teachers, educational reformists and political pundits advocate that we ditch the content and focus on creative thinking skills. Content they argue is only a search engine away. History shows that whether we are dealing with big "C" or little "c" creative thinking there are always connections to what is already known. Give me any example of creative thinking that has value but is unconnected to the rest of human knowledge and understanding. Struggling? Just as I thought, you can’t.

So here's the thing. Every new synthesis with its necessary creative thinking add to the box but extended the edges. The regular shape of this box of human understanding becomes distorted into a living flexing dynamic blob. The blob of human understanding.

Our metaphor seems to be failing us but not as much as ignoring the value of content.

Perhaps content is still King.

reference: Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner