Friday, September 28, 2012

No, Algebra isn't necessary - Thinking is necessary

Recently, I wrote a review of Roger Schank's book, Teaching Minds, for Education Canada that has received a good bit of attention.

Jacobsen, M. (2012). Think to Learn: A Review of Schank's "Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science Can Save our Schools". Education Canada, 52(2), Spring 2012. URL

Schank's book is about THINKING and makes a great contribution to any discussion about 21st century "skills". His argues we should focus on developing cognitive abilities such as negotiation, evaluation, decision making, diagnosis, team work and planning in school instead of teaching content.  I think every educator, from those who teach kindergarten to those who teach graduate school, should read it and learn from it.

Recently, Roger Schank wrote this little gem for the Washington Post:  "No, algebra isn't necessary - and yes, STEM is overrated".

My favorite part:

"You can live a productive and happy life without knowing anything about macroeconomics or trigonometry but you can’t function very well at all if you can’t make an accurate prediction or describe situations, or diagnose a problem, or evaluate a situation, person or object. The ability to reason from evidence really matters in life, the names of famous scientists and their accomplishments do not.

We can teach people the skills they need if we allow them to choose what interests them and then teach them to predict, evaluate, diagnose, etc., within their area of interest. Teaching algebra and then hoping those skills will transfer to other areas of life is simply fantasy, a fantasy that makes our kids bored and miserable in school".

Read more of Roger Schank's writing here: