Sunday, November 9, 2014

Artificial intelligence

I may need to start a school on the mudflats, or rather
share the school that's been there before we ever showed up on its shores.

With all the fuss over the Next Generation Science Standards (whose biggest fault may be the ridiculously Trekian sounding "Next Generation"), our real problem stems from our cultural confusion over what is real.

If you expect a two year old to distinguish the natural world from an iPad screen in a culture where millions of Americans will wile away a lovely Autumn afternoon screaming at images on television, you are fooling yourself (your business) and harming the toddler (my business).

Every child should:
  • Plant a seed and watch it grow from nothing before hearing the word chloroplast.
  • Watch the tide roll in, and then out again, before using the gravitational constant.
  • Play with a magnifying glass before using a microscope, an abacus before a calculator. 
  • Know what a wheat berry feels, grind it into flour, and make a loaf of bread before taming her taste buds on Thomas' English muffins. 

 Add your own ideas to the list--before you teach a "science" lesson, ask yourself if a child has had a reasonable chance to connect to piece of the natural world you are about to share. Take each and every standard and run it through this test.

If you cannot connect it to something real, abandon the lesson and take a recess. Outside. Toss away your phones, your screens, your fluorescent lights, your earbuds, your books, your markers, your words, your voice. 

Sit under the sky, quietly, and listen. 

A child born in our culture today has little chance of discerning what's real from what's not. 
I'd say the same is true of most adults today. 

We are all part of something bigger than the "limitless" technologies conceived by those around us who grew up feasting on the artificial images of the generation before them.

 The most valuable thing I have to "sell" to my lambs is the happy old man standing in front of them babbling joyfully on about the world that belongs to all of us, and in between the noise I make about mitochondria and cell cycles, we pass around sea shells and plant beans.

Just read parts of the NGSS again, and realize it's just not going to help.
I'm waiting for the standard that says "Give a child a rock, and spend the next few months knowing what makes a rock a rock."

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