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Posts tagged ‘Education’

“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.

A Little Learning Is a Dangerous Thing

Colored Light 11To close out my obsessive series of posts about the perils of substituting superficial learning for the deeper kind that really makes a difference, I refer you to someone who said it all much better in the 18th century. This is Alexander Pope (that’s “A. Pope” for you Davinci Code fans), whose poem on the subject follows:

A little learning is a dangerous thing ;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring :
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fired at first sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts ;
While from the bounded level of our mind
Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind,
But, more advanced, behold with strange surprise
New distant scenes of endless science rise !
So pleased at first the towering Alps we try,
Mount o’er the vales, and seem to tread the sky ;
The eternal snows appear already past,
And the first clouds and mountains seem the last ;
But those attained, we tremble to survey
The growing labours of the lengthened way ;
The increasing prospect tires our wandering eyes,
Hill peep o’er hills, and Alps on Alps arise !