People Obsess about Things

It’s surely wrong to so blatantly appropriate this. Yet the point is so good, and such a small part of the main piece, and yet so critical to our work here.

Read the whole piece Joe Posnanski piece on taking his daughter to see Hamilton. It’s really powerful and really moving. A wonderful tribute to the genius of Lin’s work, of the miracles of the American story, of the trials and pure joys of parenthood. It’s worth it to see this man’s view of a phenomenon you, like me, probably can’t see.

Yet as you teach, or design ‘school’, or think upon policy, come back to these words. Words about human nature. Words that can guide us as we design the future of formal learning:

We have a flaw in my family, one that goes back generations: We tend to grow obsessed with, well, stuff. What kind of stuff? OK, my mother through the years has had been possessed by countless activities including (but not limited to): paint-by-numbers; cross-stitch; stamp collecting; Harlequin Romances; computer programming (the most profitable of such obsessions); various soap operas; various reality TV shows; crossword puzzles; cookbooks; Candy Crush; all sorts of collectibles and, most recently, coloring books. She recently had coloring pencils shipped from Sweden or Switzerland or some such place. She’s very good at coloring. You can find her work on Facebook.
This is just how the family mind works, I guess. I have known all my life about my weakness for growing obsessed by things. This is the reason I haven’t seen Game of Thrones or The Americans or Downton Abbey or House of Cards or any other recently popular television show. It isn’t because I dislike television — it’s the opposite. I like television too much. I know the only way to avoid free-falling into that television hole is to never start watching in the first place.
I don’t mean this theoretically. For years, people have been on me to watch “Mad Men.” Three weeks ago, I caved in and decided to watch. I have now seen every show, all seven seasons, 92 episodes. That’s in three weeks. In other words, I have spent roughly four of the last 21 days doing nothing but watching Mad Men. That’s not healthy. I mean, the show was superb but I’m glad it’s over. I would rather obsess about something else.

The next time someone decries, “It’s time we asked about the purpose of education”, consider this as one answer:

The job of education may be to give you larger, more important things to obsess about. It may be to give you more powerful tools to turn obsession into good for your fellow man. It may be to help you see the difference.