No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge.
The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.
If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.
The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.

The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it.
And he who is versed in the science of numbers can tell of the regions of weight and measure, but he cannot conduct you thither.
For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.
And even as each one of you stands alone in God's knowledge, so must each one of you be alone in his knowledge of God and in his understanding of the earth.

-- Kahlil Gibran

boypointing_250x253Wouldn’t it be great if we could see how much a child knows and then just coax them a little further each day? Unfortunately, we are inundated with information at such a fast pace that it seems like no one can keep up. Every day we discover new ways to do things, and we create new words to describe our newfound knowledge. Just keeping up with the vocabulary of technology is a full time job! The idea that we can select some knowledge and force children to memorize it so that they can become successful in life no longer works simply because of the vast body of knowledge being created every day. We need to rethink the entire idea of education.

Children learn faster than we do.

A child can learn languages and even create new languages faster than adults. They can learn how to use computers and play all sorts of complicated games faster than adults. So why do we put children inside boring rooms and teach them things at such a slow pace? When children are motivated by situations that are exciting and fun, their brains kick into high gear and they can out-learn any adult. This is why we tell crazy stories, try to keep what we are going to do next a secret, and why we try to make every lesson exciting.

Preventing Mistakes?

Whenever we try to give children our wisdom by telling them the best way to do things, they rarely listen because we didn’t tell them about all the mistakes we made to arrive at our wisdom. Hearing about the mistakes of adults makes learning more fun for the children. That is why we encourage mistakes at Rock-it Science… after making mistakes, the student has a solid foundation to reinforce their successful methods. If someone else jumps in as a child is about to make a mistake and corrects them, they are effectively short-circuiting the learning process! That is why we discourage parents from helping the children with the experiments. However, there are times when a child does not have the manual dexterity to do things that lead to the discovery process… at those times, we will ask the parents to help if the student asks.

Future Problems

Children are not computers that can be programed to solve problems by some magical application of steps or formulas. The problems that our children will face in the future are beyond our comprehension! They will need something far beyond our meager ideals of education. There is no way to cram any sort of information into their heads that will prepare them for their future.

So… if facts and methods are not the answer, what do they need?

They need to learn failure… complete, total, and utter failure. And then they need to learn to pick themselves up, look at the carnage, and decide what to do next. In short, our children need to learn how to keep going when everything has gone wrong. The idea that we can just give up when we find adversity is a total recipe for disaster. The people that are needed for the next hundred years and beyond are the ones that keep getting back up for another try at it.

Do you think that our children would never give up?

From what I’ve seen in the last few years, we are dangerously close to having children that give up at the smallest sign of failure. I see it every day in our science lessons and it is especially apparent in the brainstorming sessions after every story. As you know, the stories contain a problem for the students to solve. They are told that they can instantly get anything they want from the Acme Store of Everything to solve the problem. I used to say, “If you were Jack or Jill, what would you do?” at the problem-solving stage of the story. For many years, this worked perfectly and the students came up with all sorts of ways to solve the problems. But a few years ago, a new type of answer came up: “I would do nothing.” This answer was troubling, but I let it pass thinking that it would just go away. But it didn’t… it became worse. More students started using it… first the older students, and later the middle students. And then came the shocker: “I would just kill myself.”

Wow. I didn’t expect that. And, it too didn’t go away.

So I changed the way that I asked the question. Instead of saying, “If you were Jack or Jill, what would you do?”, I changed the wording to say: “If you were Jack or Jill, what could you get from the Acme Store of Everything to solve the problem?” That eliminated part of the problem because they were focused on objects rather than their attitudes, but the underlying condition is still there.

Now what?

The way to deal with this is to create situations where our children have to struggle with problems on their own. If they ask questions, (and you should encourage this any way you can), you should answer their question with one of your own that may help them narrow down the possible answers.

It wouldn’t hurt for parents to explain that the things our children hear on television and on their computers are stories that are very unusual and are designed to attract attention by making us upset. All of our news is brought to us because the messengers make money doing it. If they can create an emotional response and more people click on the story, they make more money. Children need a way to counteract this barrage of horrible news. They need a strong defense mechanism that will constantly reaffirm their faith in people. Children should be encouraged to keep a diary of every good thing that they see or hear about each day to counteract all the bad stuff they find in the media. As this diary grows, they can browse through it whenever they feel discouraged and lift their spirits. If they are upset by something that they have no way to fix, you can ask them what they would ask for if they could call the Acme Store of Everything and instantly get anything they wanted. Then they could write the problem and their solution in their diary to gain peace of mind.

“We can find peace of mind when all the fighting has stopped;
But the fighting will not stop until we have peace of mind.”

John McChesney ("Mr. Mac")
Director, Rock-it Science