Tuesday, March 15, 2022

TIL: Education is an Art, not a Science

Today I learned education is an art, not a science. Before I get to how I learned that, let's go back to last week, when I couldn't understand why Richardson ISD needed to hire a consultant to develop an RISD Graduate Profile. Here's a profile that I offer to RISD, for free. A graduate is a person who is curious. Period. That's it. If you aren't curious, you haven't been educated. If you are curious, you're set for lifelong learning. QED.

During deliberation by the RISD board of trustees, I learned that in 2012-2013, RISD developed a profile of a "learner." I don't know what that ten-year-old profile says, but just like for a graduate, I'd define a "learner" as a person who is curious. If you're curious, you can't help learning. Once curiosity is ingrained, you're on your way to lifelong learning. There's no better achievement for a teacher than to graduate curious students.

In response to my post from last week, J. Casey Hurley referred me to his book, which is not just a book but a whole philosophy of education called The Six Virtues. Hurley boils education down to six virtues: "The extent to which a person is educated is the extent to which he/she is understanding, imaginative, strong, courageous, humble and generous." His six virtues are broader than my one virtue, but they are more comprehensive, while still concise enough to be practical.

In a blog post titled "Losing the war? It’s our own fault.", Hurley addresses why educators are losing the war over school reform. He contends it's because professional educators, for sixty years, have been using a "social science improvement paradigm." He argues that's wrong because it hasn't ever worked.

Schools don’t improve through the application of what research has found to be effective. They improve when educators are inspired and inspiring — the same things that characterize all works of art. Instead of assuming that improving schools is an applied social science, we need to realize it is an art.
That brings us full circle to the headline for my blog post today. Education is art, not science. There's nothing wrong with the alphabet soup of education today: SPED, STEM, ESL, SEL, DEI, TEKS, STAAR, SAT, LGBTQ, COVID, etc. But don't let all the good work on those fronts substitute for the six virtues. According to Hurley:
Being an educator is simple:
  1. What to teach is always the same — teach Understanding, Imagination, Strength, Courage, Humility and Generosity.
  2. How to teach is always the same — model Understanding, Imagination, Strength, Courage, Humility and Generosity.

I simplify it even more. What to teach? Curiosity. How to teach it? Model Curiosity. Hurley has convinced me that we can't make progress until we unwind our current complicated approach. Recognize that education is an art, not a science. Tell me I'm wrong.

1 comment:

S. said...

Won’t curiosity without tools to satisfy that curiosity be ineffective?
Nothing in these suggestions seems to reflect the value of training the intellect or physical skills, or the value of learned knowledge that provides context for further learning and evaluation of information. Developing kind, humane, curious, etc. people is a most admirable goal but it seems to me to fall short of being educated.

Science and art can operated together and aren’t exclusive. Educational theories can offer rationale for better or worse educational processes. But then there is the personal style of an educator that can transform a learning experience from dismal, to pedestrian, or to inspiring. Here lies the artistry.

So my point is that some of the knowledge that the alphabet soup of standardized tests purports to measure, and cultivated traits like curiosity, understanding (maybe this is what I was getting at by “training”?), courage, humility all together define a well educated person. Maybe the district can’t capture a definition for all varieties of educated people with simple guidelines. Maybe the district needs to measure success by outcomes reflected in surveys of graduated students. We’re they happy with their HS education - was it beneficial- are they employed - what type of employment: professional, scientific, clerical, trades, …

Steve Benson