Gentling

Bonnie explains that there are two basic ways of taming a wild horse. One is to tie it up and freak it out. Shake paper bags, rattle cans, drive it crazy until it submits to any noise. Make it endure the humiliation of being controlled by a rope and pole. Once it is partially submissive, you tack the horse, get on top, spur it, show it who’s boss—the horse fights, bucks, twists, turns, runs, but there is no escape. Finally the beast drops to its knees and submits to being domesticated. The horse goes through pain, rage, frustration, exhaustion, to near death . . . then it finally yields. This is the method some like to call shock and awe.

Then there is the way of the horse whisperers. My mother explains, “When the horse is very young, a foal, we gentle it. The horse is always handled. You pet it, feed it, groom it, stroke it, it gets used to you, likes you. You get on it and there is no fight, nothing to fight.” So you guide the horse toward doing what you want to do because he wants to do it. You synchronize desires, speak the same language. You don’t break the horse’s spirit.

My mom goes on: “If you walk straight toward a horse, it will look at you and probably run away. You don’t have to oppose the horse in that way. Approach indirectly, without confrontation. Even an adult horse can be gentled. Handle him nicely, make your intention the horse’s intention. “Then, when riding, both you and the horse want to maintain the harmony you have established. If you want to move to the right, you move to the right and so the horse naturally moves right to balance your weight.” Rider and animal feel like one. They have established a bond that neither wants to disrupt. And most critically, in this relationship between man and beast, the horse has not been whitewashed. When trained, he will bring his unique character to the table. The gorgeous, vibrant spirit is still flowing in an animal that used to run the plains.

Source: The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence by Josh Waitzkin

To do what needs doing

Michael Ellsberg has a book out called The Education of Millionaires, which outlines the 7 key skills you need to know to become a millionaire like college drop-outs Zuckerberg or Gates. The argument, loosely, is:

  1. yes college can teach you many wonderful things
  2. but those things do not transfer easily to the real world.
  3. various millionaires have done really well without a university degree
  4. so at worst, higher education may actually get in the way
  5. at best it obscures the key skills money-making college drop-outs like Dell and Gates have learned.

Vartan Gregorian has an excellent review.Along with the standard defence of liberal arts as a preparation for the ups and downs of life, one point in particular struck a chord.

What is also left out of the debate about higher education is that its purpose is not just to provide a pathway paved with gold for the nation’s elites. If we frame the discussion that way, we may unintentionally serve to disparage the people who are in charge of the daily management, maintenance and smooth operation of our civilization — the men and women who deliver our mail, comprise our police force, serve in our military, work in our libraries, teach our elementary school children, and devote themselves to a thousand other jobs that, if not performed with responsibility, commitment and creativity, would undermine the basic structures of our society. Though these individuals may not be reaching for the kind of stars that Michael Ellsberg and others would have them aspire to grasp, most are doing something even more important: they are engaging in the useful tasks of good citizens and contributing to the common welfare, including providing for their families. And perhaps they are even carrying out what Marcus Aurelius called “one of our assignments in life … to do what needs doing.”

Spot on, in my book. Any mass educational system will have a hard time dealing with those at either end of a bell-curve. But surely the failures of these systems to cope with exceptional cases does not invalidate them? Rather than eulogising these exceptional cases – Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg – as icons in the fight against an impractical education, they should be celebrated, I think, for having the self-awareness to decide that college was not for them. No less, no more.


I Built an African Army – By Sean McFate | Foreign Policy

Today the stage is Afghanistan — a near-failed state controlled by a weak central government, essentially devoid of basic infrastructure. The lessons of Liberia may help. Both countries are relatively underdeveloped and have a war-ravaged modern history. What's more, Afghans and Liberians both lack a sense of national identity as such and often identify first by ethnic group and second as Afghan or Liberian. These factors are challenges for creating a national army in a place where the majority of the population is illiterate, tribal or local loyalties trump patriotic allegiance, and ethnic blood feuds are ancient and deep.

Here, then, is an account of some of the decisions and obstacles we wrestled with in Liberia — an experience that taught me the challenges of creating soldiers and policemen whom children run toward for protection, rather than away from in fear.

Source: here

Open Training Resources

as academics, we like to think we do the education thing, not the training thing. But for those of you who do learn new stuff, maybe every day, what do you find most useful to support that presumably self-motivated learning? For my own part, I tend to search for tutorials, and maybe even use How Do I?. That is, I look for training materials. A need or a question frames the search, and then being able to do something, make something, get my head round something enough to be able to make use of it, or teach it on, frames the admittedly utilitarian goal. Maybe that ability to look for those materials is a graduate level information skill, so it’s something we teach, right…? (Err… but that would be training…?!)

So here’s where I’m at – OERs are probably [possibly?] not that useful. But open training materials potentially are. (Or maybe not..?;-) Here are some more: UNESCO Training Platform

Source: here

Common Core – A Challenge to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills

Skills are important and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) has identified skills that all children need such as critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving…. Cognitive science teaches us that skills and knowledge are interdependent and that possessing a base of knowledge is necessary to the acquisition not only of more knowledge, but also of skills. Skills can neither be taught nor applied effectively without prior knowledge of a wide array of subjects.

Education policy and practice should be based on sound research and informed by an understanding of what has worked and what has failed in the past. Attempts to teach skills apart from knowledge have failed repeatedly over the last century because they do not work…

We, undersigned, call on P21 and other advocates of 21st century skills to reshape their effort by putting knowledge and skills together at the core of their work.

Source: here

BBC – Lab UK – BBC – LabUK – About Brain Test Britain

Brain training is big news. But does it actually work? With the Brain Test Britain experiment we plan to find out – and we need your help.

We've teamed up with leading scientists to create the biggest ever trial of computer- based brain training. We want to see if brain training really can improve your brain skills, and if so, what kind of training works best.

Source: here

Arthur Marshall and Peer-to-Peer Training

Arthur Marshall was an astonishing man. At lunch today, I was told about his novel approach to training pilots, and I wonder what sort of place it might have in a classroom.

“Marshall started giving flying lessons after completing only 70 hours himself, and he was made a master instructor by the Guild of Air Pilots in 1931. From his experience he became convinced that selected ab initio pupils would make the best flying instructors, in contrast to the accepted RAF practice that only the more experienced pilots could perform this role. Operating on this principle, Marshall’s flying training methods resulted in the company’s elementary flying training schools being the most productive in the country. His scheme was eventually adopted across the RAF, for which the Marshall flying schools trained more than 20,000 pilots and instructors during the Second World War.”

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Could that sort of approach work in the classroom? For instance, a lesson a week where a child from the year above teaches a child from the year below? Maybe have other kids as homework mentors? Tricky, I suppose, for practical reasons but there’s some real potential for modelling it digitally via the web 2.0 gamut …