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“I know enough for my age already”

My mom once asked a six-year-old neighbor boy, after his first day of kindergarten, what he thought of it:

Mom: So how was your first day of school?

Six-year-old: I guess it was OK, but I’m not going back.

Mom: Why not?

Six-year-old: I know enough for my age already.

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Our production-line version of schooling* tells us year-by-year whether we have reached the “right” level of knowledge and skills throughout our step-by-step progress through the education system. I wonder whether this doesn’t leave us with the impression that if we’ve completed the grade or passed the test, then we “know enough for our age.”

My question is whether there’s any such thing as knowing enough–at any age. Do we assume that when we’ve received the diploma or the degree, we’re done? What about when we get the corner office or the C-level job. Are we done then?

My guess is that the six-year-old turned out to be a fine citizen and contributor. (This was many years ago.) But I doubt that–unless he eventually got over the idea that one can ever “know enough for his age”–that he made a very good leader. Beware the leader who knows it all, or is done learning. In this age, how can any of us ever know enough?

*See Callahan: Education and the Cult of Efficiency, an older (1964, but still in print) but still relevant history of how the structure of our public schools (public or private, magnet or charter, with few exceptions) evolved during the early years of the 20th century by borrowing concepts from industry at the time. These concepts, as applied to schools, are now taken largely for granted but are worth another look.

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