Moore’s Law in the Classroom: Brave New Thinkers for a Brave New World

Gordon E Moore, the founder of Intel, once proposed a law that the computing power behind modern technology would double every two years. For the past half century his law has more or less held true. If it continues to do so, nano-bots will overtake current medical technology in ten years. Five years after that we will be able link our neocortex to a synthetic neocortex in the cloud. The cumulative advances of the past centuries are building momentum, and soon will begin to tip.

Therefore, it is now more crucial than ever to turn attention towards the future’s most essential pillar: students and the education system. We are obligated to ask whether the globe’s learning population will be ready. Unfortunately, for a world that is moving forward at an exponential rate, the education system has barely budged.

In an age of innovation, the dusty multiple choice test remains at large. A little paper slip is fed into a machine and spat back out with a number indicating how many points the student falls short of perfection. It does not matter whether you are a dancer, a leader, or heaven forbid, an innovator. Nearly all the doors to the future slam shut if you cannot agree with the little dots on those multiple choice cards. The rigid, quantified nature of today’s education continues to give students the impression that the world, like a GPA scale, is a ladder to be climbed, as opposed to what it truly is, which is a big fat mess to be solved.

The bottom line, the fatal flaw of our stagnant schooling, is that time and time again we have been shown that those who make history are the very people who break boundaries and redefine standards. Claude Monet and Martin Luther King did not read and recite the status quo, they created it. Unfortunately, the quality of one’s contributions and the height of one’s success will depend on anything but an ability to adhere to someone else’s criteria, standards, and restrictions, yet these are the very tasks we continue to train tomorrow’s leaders to perform.

Education is inadequate and counterintuitive with society’s needs. How should we be preparing the minds of our future instead? The answer lies in big thinking.

Big thinking is comprised of two components. The first is to approach problems in a manner that is original and unconventional. The second is to consider oneself and one’s actions as part of an inter-connected whole with ripple effects that impact not only other nations but also other generations.

Imagine a recent graduate is hired and assigned the task of coordinating resources to ensure that all the children in a given school district are properly immunized. A survivor of the current education infrastructure might do a fairly acceptable job. He will complete the task the way he thinks his predecessors did it, make sure everything is legal, and pack up his bag at 5 pm. Something might go wrong at some point down the road, but it won’t be his fault because he isn’t responsible for every last piece of the puzzle.

A big thinker, however, will do all of this and much more. He will be the person who understands that traditional protocols are outdated and inefficient, and will think about ways to do the job differently. A big thinker is clever. He might try to move the immunization records online and build a software that plots the amount of vaccines, nurses, and bandages required at each location. This would lend extra time to do things like compile data about the flaws of the system to identify and fix their root causes, and collaborate with other school districts to seek and share advice. She will be the person who works not just to finish tasks, but to find elegant solutions that make a difference. In short, a big thinker is what every employer dreams of, someone who goes above and beyond and leaves behind a legacy.

Where does all this extra effort and energy come from? It all comes from perspective. If you wake up in the morning and think of nothing but your life and your assets, then nothing will ever matter to you but those exact things. If you wake up every morning and think about the future of your community, your country, and the world as a whole, then something like whether the correct vaccines get into every last child will matter very deeply to you. A bigger perspective gives students reason to care about causes that are greater than themselves.

Big thinking does not only benefit the greater good, it benefits the student as well. Someone who sees the entire picture will be less emotionally afflicted by personal pities and hardships. A big thinker will seldom feel bored or lonely because she is too busy being an interested observer and enthusiastic participant of the world around him. A big thinker is never satisfied, someone who is driven by the idea that what they do is important, but never enough.

Group work and projects that encourage problem solving and creativity is a good start to educating big thinkers. But anyone familiar with these practices can tell you that there are still many flaws, and it is not yet nearly enough. Knowledge is powerful. It has been used to feed nations and clear pandemics, build bridges and level cities. Thus far we have not paid sufficient attention to how we are handling its distribution. It is time that education, too, falls into step with the accelerating pace of our changing world.

Lastly, I encourage all of you to realize that big thinking is not something to be admired, nor is it a special quality that some of us can have and others can’t. As one of the first generations to have food in our bellies and human rights behind our backs, the internet at our finger tips and the world at our feet, big thinking is no longer a pretty ideal for dreamers and optimists, it is our fundamental responsibility.

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