Starting with Why

Teach with Reach

The core value of Teach with Reach is “To foster a life long passion for learning“.

 

This is something I came up with a while ago but only recently updated the website to reflect. The previous driver that I had was of “fostering paradigm changes in Education” which  is really just part of the How, not the What or the Why.

For those of you who don’t know, Teach with Reach is the education startup I technically started last year but won’t be working on it full time until next year.

Start with Why

I’ve seen Simon Sinek TED talk and a few other videos on Starting with Why , but it wasn’t until I started listening to the audiobook of “Start with Why : How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” that I realised I haven’t explained why we need to foster students (of all ages) to have a life long passion for learning.

Firstly what do I mean by a life long passion for learning? By that I mean a passion, a hunger, a thirst for knowledge. But it is more than that. It is wisdom that we want, for wisdom is both knowing something and acting upon that knowledge. Just because I know I shouldn’t eat bad foods, does not mean I act upon that knowledge. So both knowing and action are important.

Trends

There are a number of important trends of interest.

The Internet

If you go back to the start of the universal school system there was very few books. It was highly likely that each school might only have a single text book on a subject (e.g Maths). So the teachers would write up parts of the book onto the blackboard and get the students to copy them down. New theories and concepts developed so slowly that the knowledge gained through school would still be relevant by the time the worker had died. These days we have had an information access explosion. We are producing information at an astounding rate and have access to such an incredible wealth of it. But the majority of people have not been given the tools needed to deal with filtering this information. Whilst text books are usually carefully fact checked and the truth is considered paramount, blog posts and adverts are often the exact opposite and a large amount of the ‘information’ we have access to is designed to distort the truth or be false. To filter out the crap we need to grow up with a strong grounding in critical thinking. To be able to apply the baloney detection kit. To understand that we want to believe, but that it is better to have understandings than a belief.

Knowledge Worker

Go back 10,000+ years and humans were hunter gathers, which was actually pretty easy going with only a few hours of work a day needed to survive, as long as you didn’t mind travelling to where the animals were. Obviously some people didn’t like the travelling especially having been forced out of Africa with only a few thousand humans who had survived the arduous trek towards the equator during the ice age at the time so as the weather warmed humans started agriculture.  The toiling of soil, controlling of water and animals and storage of grain required a LOT of work. 80% of the population needed to be working exhausting sunrise to sunset days just to produce enough food for everyone. Think about that when you see an old movie about knights and castles with peasants working. The people in the castle or city was barely 20% of the population.

The discovery of coal and later oil helped start the industrial era with the Watt steam engine taking shape in the late 1770s. What started as an engine to help pump water out of coal mines also started a revolution that saw the number of people agriculture go from about 60% at the time to barely 2% by the 1920’s, with people instead working in factories.  It should be noted that this transition also saw the rise of the nearly universal school system which is still in use today and which was designed for and has become incredibly good at creating factory workers. The Industrial era faded away with the advent of robotics and was replaced with the service sector, however the Internet and computers are starting to see that fade away with the new wave being the knowledge worker. Think about it, when did you have to go into a bank to ask a teller for cash? I’m guessing that you’ve used an ATM many many times more. We thankfully did away with people who manually operate elevators and now have elevators without buttons inside them. Ohh and taxi’s and bus drivers? Make way for self-driving cars.

The type of jobs we need in the future aren’t ones where humans perform repetitive tasks, those that can have a workflow and people can be motivated to do better just by paying them more. No, the types of work we will do in the future won’t be considered a job for it will be primarily powered by intrinsic motivation, will require lots of creativity and you will measured it by how much you are in the Flow/in the zone. The freshman Uni students of today are learning content that will likely be out of date before they have finished their degree and will be getting a job that probably doesn’t even exist yet. How can our society cope if people grow up with the idea of 20/40/20. 20 years learning, 40 years working, 20 years retired. No, we need people who are love to and are always learning new skills, new knowledge, and creating new connections.

Ageless

Something that Aubrey de Grey explains well is that medical technology is advancing at such a rate that (plus or minus a generation) we will be increasing life expectancy more than a year per year. So some who is 20 and has a life expectancy of 80 might see a life expectancy of 300 by the time they are 60 and they could live for over 1,000 years.

If you talk with enough people you find that like their bones and ligaments start to get stiff and lose their adaptability, their brains seem to calcify over time. Their ability to adapt to new information and change their understanding seems to end up more like a belief about how the world works which becomes very hard to change. Notice how in general it seems the older people get the less computer literate they seem to be, the harder it is to learn new languages and the more conservative  their views seem to be. What is interesting is that this doesn’t always happen. I know 70 year olds who are better at web development than many of my friends who are under 30, yet I also have friends that are barely 20 years old who seem to already be very set in their ways.  If humans are going to be able to live for 1,000 years then they are going to have to overturn many MANY current assumptions about how the world works. We will need to be able to change the core of what we consider is our identity.

Just like we are going to have to prevent our joints from seizing up as we get older, we are going to have to prevent our minds from seizing up.

I can’t tell you what the future will be like, but if the past and current trends are anything to go by it will be a very different type of world and I want to ensure we all have the ability to cope and adapt.

Videos

Some of the links in the content above are to videos. I find that I learn very well through videos and thought I might embed some of the really good ones in case you also love them.

 

My story

I myself got my thirst for knowledge after reading the book Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder when I was in Year 7. I still remember going up to the teacher and explaining how I knew about the concept of Atoms. However I didn’t learn it from reading a high school text book as they probably thought, but from the philosophical concept of indivisible particles which Democritus had put forth during the classical Greek era.

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