I was originally going to focus this post on answering typical questions from the engineering panels I’ve done at Tufts. However, while I was browsing Wired.com for the last hour or so (it’s a great use of my Sunday night time, I swear), I came across an incredibly interesting article. The piece is about rethinking education, and it’s absorbed so much of my thought that I’m going to try and write this entire post about it…right now…at 1:45AM on a Sunday. My parents are probably so proud, but here I go anyway.
If you read the article, there’s a particular section that talks about the original process around education in the United States. It was based off an industrial and systematic way of thinking, and, as Wired states: “the dominant model of public education is still fundamentally rooted in the industrial revolution that spawned it, when workplaces valued punctuality, regularity, attention, and silence above all else”.
I’m sure for many of us, especially those that made their way through the American public education system, can find some agreement on this statement. Traditional education follows the principles of memorization, reading, and repetitive practice (I was always so terrible at those “math minute” tests in third grade). And while that seems like an easy way to breed results, it’s certainly not the most efficient.
The article goes on to make some extremely interesting points about new teaching topics that deal with some inspiring tactics. Tactics I wish I was opened up to back in Elementary School, but was fortunately able to work with a bit in high school and beyond.
These ideas employ a method of students teaching themselves new things, with their teachers acting more as guides rather than sources of information. By harvesting a student’s inner curiosity and letting them figure things out for themselves, they naturally learn. Maybe it’s not a word for word out of the textbook, but they learn and develop on their own.
Now, as a native of Silicon Valley as well as an aspiring engineer/entrepreneur, I can’t help but smile when I read about these new teaching methods, as they sound exactly where the business and engineering world is turning towards today. It’s becoming more collaborative, more innovative, and much more free flowing.
STEM, as a whole, is kind of a funny field. Most people would think of math-based disciplines as restrictive. Stuck to digits 0-9, STEM workers are thought of as formulaic, emotionless, and overly robotic individuals (I point to an episode of The Big Bang Theory as my reference). And, as a result, a parallel seems to be drawn between the STEM fields and the industrial version of education that people have always followed.
However, the opposite could not be more true. Today’s engineers and businessmen are beginning to realize the importance and value of having imaginative, innovative, and inspiring business practices. And this is very well represented in Silicon Valley, the focus of the STEM world today.
Starting off in the offices and labs of Apple, Intel, Oracle, and numerous other companies, the idea that inputting free-thought outputs new ideas, inventions, and smart ways of thinking led to success. In a world where employees who thought differently were let go, these companies championed these workers, planting their resources into them to see what would come out. Now, many businesses are gone with the cubicles and restrictive structure and have begun to lay out their companies in large, open space rooms. Anybody can talk to anybody, and everybody can see and learn new things.
One great example just occurred to me. When I was at the new employee training for Tesla this summer, a point they could not emphasize more was that people were always welcome to share their ideas to anybody their wanted. No matter the department or rank, information was as open as possible, and Tesla wanted it that way.
I’ve always been a huge fan of the blending and mixing together or ideas from across different fields. And, as a result, I’m also a huge fan of where the world of thought is going today, not only in business, but now also in education. Progress isn’t based on some formulaic system that you can look up in a textbook. Rather, it’s something that comes from inspiring yourself to find a solution to a problem.
That said, it’s now 2:54AM and I’m auditing class on Classical Mythology tomorrow (I’m not taking it for credit, I was just inspired to learn, wink wink), so I think it’s time for me to go to bed. I hope you enjoyed my overly-giddy rant, or at least were able to get your way through it.
To finish off though, I just want to say that the world is headed towards a colorful and blended way of thinking, and it excites me to the point of believing it’s the revolution of my generation (the Millenials). What drives us is thinking smarter, not harder, and our message is inspiring quite a lot of people out there. It really does feel like a 1960s counter-revolution.
This time, however, it’s not John Lennon on the stage, but Silicon Valley up there singing “Imagine”.