Regular readers will know that I have a thing about education, and that my dream is to build a school from scratch as and when I have no role to play in traditional enterprise. A school that makes use of social software and Moore and Metcalfe and Gilder; that knows how to create value from “globalisation and disintermediation and the internet” (as Ken Ohmae said a few decades ago in The Borderless World); that works like an efficient charity, with 95% of the income being used for the purpose it was designed for (to teach and to learn) rather than “administration and management”.
I have been extremely impressed with what I have heard and seen about ARK, a meta-charity that treats all the funds it generates as investments with a measured social return and low administrative costs; I believe that something similar can be done in education. A model where we treat school funds as investments with a clearly defined social return (you can call it educational return if you wish) and have a clear basis for keeping administrative costs appreciably low. But I digress.
One of the reasons I have such a passion for education (I have many reasons, but this time I am concentrating on just one) is an out-and-out belief in nurture being more important than nature. I am not a fan of The Bell Curve or related works and ideas.
You can imagine my delight when I chanced across this article in the August issue of Scientific American. [And thank you, Scientific American, for not hiding it behind a DRM wall. And thank you for bothering to ask me, via a simple survey, whether I was a subscriber or not when I looked at it, and if so what I subscribed to. Do share your results when you have them, if only to prove that subscriber recommendations are an incredible marketing process, particularly when unhampered by DRM walls].
The article, headlined The Expert Mind and subtitled Studies of the mental processes of chess grandmasters have revealed clues to how people become experts in other fields as well, is well worth a read. It goes through why chess could be “the Drosophila of cognitive science” in terms of measurement, synthesis, scope for laboratory experimentation and repeatibility, ease of observation in natural environment, many things. I’m personally also very keen on the fact that it is cognitive and as language- and culture-independent as possible; there’s a lot of good stuff in it that relate to apperception and Gladwellian Blink, on stored-and-recallable knowledge rather than pure analytical power, even on memory and chunking theory.
There’s also some solid backing to the Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration argument, to the importance of perseverance, to the importance of an early and strong motivation.
But what did it for me was the coda to the article. I quote:
Instead of perpetually pondering the question “Why can’t Johnny read?” perhaps educators should ask “Why should there be anything in the world he can’t learn to do”.
For educator read manager or mentor or whoever. This is not just about schools. But it is about education.