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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Ability to Learn More Important Than Ever


Expertise is out and ability to learn is in. I recently learned this from the Atlantic magazine. I subscribe in spite of the fact that I disagree with much of its hyper-political content. The reason is that they do have a few informative articles without snarky politics. One such article in the July 2019 issue is about the training philosophy for a new class of ships they call “Littoral Combat Ships.” The
Source: U.S. Navy
USS Gabrielle Giffords is the first of a series of such vessels under construction. Several compelling factors drive the training protocols for developing crews for these ships. One factor is that these are high-tech ships that demand an intelligent and flexible crew that can respond to unexpected contingencies. Another factor is that these ships have a hollow belly which can be readily retrofitted for different kinds of missions. Another is the need to reduce crew size to hold down costs. The effect on training is that expertise is out and ability to learn is in. The Navy wants “hybrid” sailors who can readily learn and perform multiple kinds of tasks. Careers in such a navy depend not so much on what one knows but what one is able to learn.

The same trend appears to be happening in the civilian world of work. Employers are always looking to do more with fewer workers. Where workers cannot be replaced by technology, the hiring priority goes to workers who are good learners. This not only reduces labor costs but also creates an adaptable workforce that can respond to rapid shifts in technology and market opportunities and demands.

The education community should be adapting to these real-world dynamical shifts in worker capabilities. I fear that we are still stuck in 19th Century education models that focus on knowledge acquisition. State and Federal education standards have a near-exclusive emphasis on transferring knowledge and skills.

Schools tell students what they need to know, based on what we think is important in today’s world. Tomorrow will not be like today. What we need to know in tomorrow’s world is likely to be vastly different from today.

After school years have ended, who will hold a worker’s hand to teach them what they did not learn in school? How prepared are students to learn on their own? Where are the educational programs for developing ability to learn? Testing rests on assessing knowledge with multiple-choice tests. Students are drilled to levels of conformity where “no child is left behind” (which is equivalent to “no child pushed forward”).

Where do schools teach children how to memorize, so they can remember acquired knowledge for future use? Where do schools teach creativity? Where do schools teach insightfulness? Do we even know of ways to increase intelligence? Do students have many opportunities to learn to love learning for its own sake? Do they have many opportunities to experience the joy of real discovery? Are they taught how to collaborate with others to learn and solve problems? Are they taught how to integrate knowledge across academic disciplines?

Worse yet, schools tend to eliminate certain kinds of teaching that do develop learning-to-learn skills. For example, cursive writing is eliminated as a national curricular requirement, despite the fact that it promotes learning of goal direction, focus, attention to detail, and the value of practice (see my several posts on this subject). As schools strive for cost-effectiveness by increasing enrollments to mega school size, students are deprived of opportunities to develop autonomy, individual nurturing becomes impractical, and testing devolves to guessing and weak recognition memory on multiple-choice tests.

The bottom line is this: the world is changing its workforce needs. Schools, particularly American schools, do not seem to be producing the kind of workforce the world increasingly seems to need.

"Memory Medic" has four books on improving learning and memory:

For parents and teachers: The Learning Skills Cycle.
For students: Better Grades, Less Effort
For everyone's routine living: Memory Power 101
For seniors: Improve Your Memory for a Healthy Brain.
                    Memory Is the Canary in Your Brain's Coal Mine

For details and reviews, see Memory Medic's web site: thankyoubrain.com


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