My Unfair Advantage
How Education is Rigged and What to Do About It.
Why am I passionate about outdoor education? Why do I champion vocational skills? Why did I write four illustrated activity books rooted in pop-culture (each of them limited to 20 pages of simple text)?
Because education should serve students. Not academics.
But, the majority of education is designed by academics and then validated and approved through the lens of other academics.
Academics, DO NOT, in any way, represent a randomized sampling of humanities’ learning styles or backgrounds.
Academics, in general, represent a specific thin-slice of cognitive processes, proclivities, and personalities. These people, largely, have unfair advantages similar to my own.
This is my Unfair Advantage.
I was read to, in a loving and supportive way, nearly every evening, for the first 10 years of my life.
This is my unfair advantage.
Dr. Seuess, Hank the Cowdog, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lakota Traditions, The Biography of Crazy Horse, Gary Paulsen, and countless other stories.
I was emotionally conditioned to crave reading.
My mom was a teacher. Every drive, long or short was turned into a learning excursion. I was trained to seek the lesson in every circumstance.
I was emotionally conditioned to crave learning.
This is an unfair advantage because, in a world where power, income, and ability are largely structured by “academic” standards- one must be inclined and equipped to excel at academic activities.
Surprisingly, Cognition and Thought are Emotional Byproducts.
This is because emotion builds habit, intuition, and reflex.
Emotion is not designed exclusively to make us cry or rage.
More importantly, emotion is designed to provide us with benchmarks that allow our actions and thoughts to be more streamlined,
conditioning the amygdala to bypass the prefrontal cortex and that slow hulking machinery of “logic” and “reason”.
- If one has a powerful emotional connection with academic activities- they will pursue those activities intrinsically, all the while developing their intuition and reflexes in those activities.
- If one has a negative emotional association with academic activity- they will avoid those activities and those skills will atrophy.
So what does this mean?
Have you read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell?
Are you familiar with Chaos Theory?
Chaos Theory is [the study] of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions.
We, humans, are dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions.
Emotional conditioning at the very onset of life has a very drastic impact upon the entire life trajectory of an individual.
Emotional systems are very sensitive and very powerful.
Pixar’s movie Inside Out illustrates this wonderfully.
This Means: For some people, reading is as enticing as hot cocoa on a cold day. For others, reading is as painful and disquieting as scalding water.
So what does this mean for parents, teachers, and learners?
This means that you cannot try to force a student to read and learn in a conventional manner when they have already been conditioned with negative associations attached to reading and (conventional) “learning”.
Perhaps, an even more important insight is this:
Students do not only suffer when the they have negative associations with reading and “learning”.
They also suffer when there is simply an absence of the emotional benchmarks necessary to connect to subject matter.
So. If half of your class has negative associations with learning and half of your class has non-existent associations with reading and learning. Who does that leave you with?
We should not have an education system designed by outliers to serve outliers.
Education should be diverse and customizable.
The activities should have easy entry points and relevance to positive emotional markers in the students life.
Only after connecting to the existing positive emotional markers will you want to consider developing and overriding existing negative or neutral emotional markers.
After more than three years of tutoring and instruction of incarcerated people, I know these truths deeply.
Our most disadvantaged citizens have brilliance within them,
but that brilliance will not be recognized as long as biased academics and the graduates of academic institutions are measuring and cultivating human capacity with academic pedagogy.
Provide opportunities rich in implicit learning,
with fun and gradually escalating, elected challenges, the explicit learning will follow.
To learn more about SOL Education and Adventure Programs, enjoy the following overviews: