Stop Creating Dabblers
Martin Moran
11

I appreciate this post. It’s something I’ve been struggling with as well since I introduced 20Time projects in my HS English classes. I believe, really, this we’re at a point where we are reframing what it means to develop a truly liberal education. I’ve been championing liberal education since I graduated in 1990, a good deal of that because I’m an advocate for Phi Beta Kappa. The national organization has been trying to redefine itself and its mission since the rise of students seeking purely professional degrees over the past decade+. (Whether this is entirely true, statistically, is, it seems, debatable, but PBK has seen a decline in its membership and the level of its recognition for decades.)

That aside, I do think we need to gauge how far we go with this. I wonder if this observation from Einstein sheds any light on the issue: “I want to oppose the idea that the school has to teach directly that special knowledge and those accomplishments which one has to use later directly in life. The demands of life are much too manifold to let such a specialized training in school appear possible […] The school should always have as its aim that the young man leave it as a harmonious personality, not as a specialist. This in my opinion is true in a certain sense even for technical schools, whose students will devote themselves to a quite definite profession. The development of general ability for independent thinking and judgement should always be placed foremost, not the acquisition of special knowledge. If a person masters the fundamentals of his subject and has learned to think and work independently, he will surely find his way and besides will better be able to adapt himself to progress and changes than the person whose training principally consists in the acquiring the detailed knowledge.”

I think the best argument here is that there has to be some point at which basic/general knowledge is foundational enough that students can go deep. So when does that happen? Cause what we’re really talking about is the need for “T-shaped people.” Right?

Anyway, I love your section about the importance of local, community work as a way to reframe “changing the world.” It is the small things that matter.

Agreed that the answer is “deeper learning” and empowerment rather than constant curricular adherence. Of course there’s no mutual exclusivity here, right? Anyway, see, among others, A.J. Juliani and John Spencer in “Empower” (their new book) and Grant Lichtman’s work (again, among others).

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