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Jessica Krueger's picture

One topic I'd hope we'd hit

One topic I'd hope we'd hit during this discussion on education and the brain was academic doping, but it seems our focus has gone elsewhere.

It seems to me that we've been engaging in a lot of feel good discussion about encouraging individuals and increasing neurodiversity. We want to honor each student's individual learning style, and we want to increase "neurodiversity" by introducing more variety into classroom. Okay. I can't quite put a finger on it, but something about the tone of this discussion annoys me.

We need to consider the goals of education. What is wrong, exactly, with teaching kids how to take tests? Test-taking is a skill, like writing a paper or reading a computer screen detailing engine function and knowing which wrench to use to resolve the issue. Instead of focusing on self-development and trying to push children towards the academic ivory tower, shouldn't education be about getting a set of esential life skills across to students? Is university education really essential for everyone? Does every automechanic need to be able to situate Sapphic poetry in an 18th century context or does every Latin professor need to know how to fill a red top and a purple top vaccutainer for a CBC SuperChem? Would it really improve the quality of their lives? Or are we just expressing a preference bias to our lifestyles in considering our choices and values superior?

What's wrong with allowing students to filter themselves out? During the K-12 years, we're dealing with human beings during the most tumultous times of their lives, childhood and adolescence. It's a rare breed who will sit and focus through those raging hormones, so why not let track programs fill with self-selected students willing to dedicate their time to pursuing higher education, while allowing other students to "aim lower" as it were? Would pushing students through material and skill sets they don't consider valuable increase neurodiversity? If so, at what cost? Why not let students who value their free time now serve as worker bees in the soceity? Is there anything wrong with being satisfied as a career assembly-line worker, janitor or M.D. PhD?

Lastly, at what level do we want this neurodiversity? The classroom? The school? The districit? The state? The field of work? Wouldn't a track system, with schools pushing various different focuses, actually increase neurodiversity in the population overall? How are we so sure we haven't already attained this proverbial "neuraldiversty"? How are we so sure that students aren't already developing their own approaches and re-wiring their own brains when given the same sets of materials and skills? How do we quantify this? Are there ways of thinking that may actually be detrimental to certain goals? Do you really want a physician to be contemplating the various schools of thought on heart health when your father is coding on the table? Do grocery cashiers really need special, tailored train to teach them how to stock a shelf or check out a patron?

I guess what I'm detecting in some of these discussions is a bias against "lower" occupations and educational goals within our group. Of course we want to think academia and the university are the best life paths to select, we selected them afterall. What's wrong with letting students drop-out and pursue their own learning? What's wrong with teaching Creationism, if not as a science then as an alternate way of thinking about things? What's wrong with letting girls forgo calculus in lieu of home-economics classes? Wouldn't these increase neural diversity? Not that I ascribe to any of the arguments proposed here (I personally align myself with Heinline with regard to specialization) but I feel like these questions hadn't yet been raised and are important to the discussion. Correct me if I'm wrong.

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