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.

Creepers Advert

Motor Accident Commission-Stop Creeping over the Speed Limit
Motor Accident Commission – Stop Creeping over the Speed Limit

This advert against going a little bit faster has been playing in South Australia for a little while now. I basically never watch TV and yet I’ve seen it my share of times. But is it really effective?

This post isn’t likely to have any good stats, because it isn’t about that it’s about how our society is trying to patch the symptom instead of cure the problem(s).

So the concept of creeping over the speed limit is that it’s then harder to stop and if you were going to only just hit someone when driving your car and barely give them a bruise because you have been doing 5-10kms faster than the sign posted speed limit you are now going to break their leg or snap their neck or kill the baby they were carrying. Scary stuff.

But the advert doesn’t seem to work to me. It doesn’t work because the campaign just asks people to stop and tries to associate it with creepiness. I can almost imagine a room full of marketers being told that the latest crash figures indicate that the current biggest issue is people going a little bit faster, they were then given 3mins to come up with a campaign and the person who could talk the most passionately won.

But what was needed is to work out WHY people are creeping over the speed limit and how to solve the problem at the core, not to just add more social fear and pressure and try to scare people.

Here’s some reasons why I myself have creeped over the speedlimit or I think others might :

  1. You are running late.
  2. You are going down a hill and the car naturally speeds up.
  3. You don’t know what the speed limit is. Which is especially bad when there’s no other cars around and you are driving somewhere new to you.
  4. The traffic is bad.
  5. The other cars around you are creeping over the speed limit and you are just following them (herd mentality).
  6. It is safer or easier to briefly speed up (e.g to make room for the bus which wants to cross 3 lanes of traffic).
  7. The music is blaring and making your heart race and maybe even causing your to adrenaline pump.
  8. You are distracted e.g by a phone
  9. You are distracted e.g rubber necking. Although most people slow down to perve on the girls, they might not notice the traffic lights and that they should be stopping.

 

So, looking at the above suggestions which are off the top of my head so probably somewhat inaccurate and very likely to be missing a whole heap of other reasons, lets target a couple of the reasons and work out how we would tackle them.

Running Late : This is usually a time management skill. You could probably subsidise the cost of smart phones with a calendar built-in and provide training on how to configure and use it properly and you would probably stop some of the lateness issues. The rest of people, like myself would probably need to go to some subsidised courses on time management. This would probably have a great net economic productivity increase and would be worth doing anyway, but YMMV.

 

Going Down a Hill : This is a law of physics, deal with it. Put up some signs along the footpath letting pedestrians know of the danger, although most who live near the bottom of a hill will likely know the problems. I shouldn’t need to say but putting a busy intersection at the bottom of a steep hill is probably a bad idea, what if someone’s brakes fail on the way down?
The other issue is speed cameras. Here in South Australia at least they don’t seem to put speed cameras where it is DANGEROUS to speed, instead they put them were you are LIKELY to speed. Two mostly different places, but the government gets a nice bundle of money through speeding fines so the bean counters are going to set higher and higher targets that the police have to reach. To get that many speeding fines in less and less time where are they going to have to spend their time? Certainly not where it does the public any good, but where it fills the coffers. NB : Please correct me if I’m wrong, I’d love to see some decent stats and analysis of this.


You Don’t Know what the Speed Limit Is
 :  A number of years ago the state government changed the default speed limit from 60km/hr to 50km/hr. The idea is that people will be travelling slower so there will be less speeding. I’d love to see some stats to see if this made an improvement that was worth the investment. Those people who do 80km/hr in the suburbs are going to do that no matter what the speed limit is. Like DRM and excessive computer game/application protection the main people it hurts is the general consumer (or in this case, driver).
But one of the biggest issues for me is trying to determine what the speed limit is. Most main roads are 60km/hr but aren’t sign posted with the speed very well and I can easily turn a corner onto a road which feels even safer but I forget is actually 50km/hr but there’s rarely any 50km/hr signs. However as you get into the city they sign post the change from 60km/hr to 50km/hr.

Here’s how I would have done it to save all the confusion :

One way = 40km/hr

1 lane = 50km/hr

2 lanes = 60km/hr

3 lanes = 70km/hr

This makes it much much easier to determine what the speed limit should be. If there is a single lane for your way of traffic and a lane on the right for traffic going the other way then that’s 1 lane (one lane for you) and you can go 50km/hr.
When you look at it, 90% of the speed changes and signs follow this basic principle and it is very easy to sign post the changes when this isn’t the case. e.g when it’s 2 lanes but on the highway and you can do 110km/hr.

50km/hr
50km/hr

The Traffic is Bad : If you go through bumper to bumper traffic because of bad traffic signals which prioritise an empty lane then you are probably going to speed when you get to the other side to make up the time. You’ll also be incredibly frustrated. You left home when you should have, Google Maps told you how long it expected to take but instead of being 2mins early you are now going to be 15mins late. *RAGE*
One great option to help with this could be to get more data about traffic. Most people have a smart phone in their car. A phone capable of tracking your position and speed using GPS (and other location services), capable of transmitting to servers online and those servers could aggregate the data and help the traffic services tweak the light sequences and also let your route be adjusted as you are driving to bypass the bottlenecks. Also, EVERY bus should have such a system which lets you track their position whilst they are on-route so I know if the bus is going to leave in 3mins or is broken down and the next bus is 45mins away.

 

Other Cars : I’m not sure what to do about this, but I do know of studies where peer pressure can cause this to happen, but if just one other person shows the correct answer then you are much more likely to also do the correct thing. But it could also be that you just aren’t paying too much attention to your speed and are thinking of other things, that’s what usually happens to me.

 

Safer to speed up : Changing lanes can be dangerous, especially if you need to either change lanes to go around a parked car or slam on the breaks. Imagine this scenario, which happens quite a lot for me. You are driving along on the right hand lane (this is Australia so we drive on the left side of the road). There is is plenty of space in front of you (e.g 4 car lengths), to your left and a little behind you is a car who’s front bumper bar is about level with your rear wheels. About 0.9 car lengths behind you (in your lane) is another car.
The car on your left is in a pickle, it turns out there’s a car parked in his lane and he starts indicating right. He now either has to shove his foot on the break, or you can speed up slightly and the car behind you can slow down a tiny bit and he can nicely slot in.
Note : Because of the other cars which will also have to merge from the left lane into the right the car behind you can’t slow down too much to get the most efficient traffic flow. This is probably something that should be taught when you get your drivers license, but I don’t think it ever will because the thought of letting people go above the speed limit for any reason seems too scary for the powers that be.

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Got any other ideas/solutions? Comment below!