I was thinking about the purpose of education recently (probably triggered by a book on the American education system called the Knowledge Gap) and started mulling over this over. Asking myself again and again:
What is the purpose of education – what is it there for?
The question itself fascinated me, as at a macro level this not something that I think I have ever really spent any time considering. I may have indirectly thought about this, but more often than not over my teaching career I have considered the more micro side of day to day lessons, plans and termly or yearly outcomes. On occasions I have definitely questioned the presence of certain subjects and the lack of others, but in overarching terms I don’t think this is something I have ever really engaged with – which is why I think it interested me so much.
I have no doubt that this is something that countless others have grappled with, considered, dwelled upon and come up with their own solutions. I’d be curious if any government, anywhere in the world, has a very simple guiding principle to which they boil their education / curriculum down to. And the reason I wondered about this was the more I thought about teaching and education the more I thought it comes down to two things:
- Will it make you healthy?
- Will it make you productive?
I can’t get away from these two simple questions – both of which are judgements, which lead to discussion and debate as to what is healthy or productive, but I think as a start and end point to what we teach and learn are incredibly robust.
This led me down a road of what we currently teach in primary schools and considering how much of the curriculum meets these criteria. It’s a stress test that I think we could do a lot better at in so many ways (the use of food as a central tenet to all teaching would be a good starting point.) More importantly this felt like a time when I joined the dots between my day to day frustrations at teaching and a broader view on why this frustrated me.
Which then leads me to the photo at the top of the post, which is my IDO or IRO model (I can’t quite decide yet which acronym I prefer, In, digest, out or in, rest, out). The idea of reducing everything down to: Is it healthy and is it productive can be helpful as a quick stress test, as opposed to a minute second by second rule to be bound by. As a visual tool I’ve found this really effective method of helping people understand balance and how it can impact you. So on the left, you have a good balance of what goes in, how you rest and what comes out, which pulls you closer to the most effective person you want to be (either in terms of running a certain time in a race, or being as healthy, productive and focused as possible in your day to day life)
Are you putting far too much in, not resting at all and taking far too much out, leading to a move away from where you could be as you weight down your ability to be healthy and productive, reducing that sweet spot between the three key areas. I’ve had the experience of this with someone recently, who has suffered from just this issue and their body has broken down.
Leading me back to above, Is it healthy, is it productive?
As a visual, the better the balance, the better that sweet spot, the easier it is for you to float upwards and move as close as possible to what you are truly capable of. And whilst I see a lot of good sense in Carol Dweck’s idea of growth mindset, we all have ceiling somewhere, it’s about giving yourself the best chance to get as close to that ceiling as you possibly can. Alternatively are you weighing yourself down with behaviour / environments / information that is neither healthy nor productive because that balance is just totally out of kilter?
I’ve liked the combination of visual idea with these two questions and can see how they are supportive in my own life and working with others.