09 May 2005

The Importance of the Question Mark

Neal Postman, observer, critic, pundit and analyst of education, once wrote: "Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods." The Jenius considers this the most pithy, incisive, accurate and damning indictment of the current educational system He's ever read. The power of curiosity, the willingness to explore, challenge and seek beneath the surface, is a hallmark of childhood activity, and yet this very same power is seen as a threat that needs elimination by a system unworthy of the word "education."

In a related idea, Steve Hardy, the talented thinker behind the excellent Creative Generalist blog, has written words that The Jenius knows are Truth:

In a diverse, information saturated, hyperinnovating, and interconnected world it's not hard to find the merits of generalist thinking - especially in the realm of ideas, the base of so-called knowledge economy. However, we continue to steer kids into very specializing education systems and we're doing it to them earlier and earlier in their lives.

In our haste to train a better specialist to develop things faster, better and with more precision we've built a process that is relentlessly shortchanging society of those people - generalists - that can think with wide-open imagination, big picture synthesis, and an informed sense of context.


The current "educational" system, built by mediocre minds, monitored by mediocre minds, implemented by mediocre minds and conveniently ignored by The Fools can only mass-produce mediocre minds. Yes, there are quite a few who rise above the sludge to claim their rightful place as thinking adults, but by and large, the system throws away the greater part of Our enormous potential.

The system is a failure. It cannot be repaired without a massive series of dismissals, a thorough overhaul of the basic curriculum and the imposition of strict professional standards for teachers. And while We're here, let's end world hunger, give every adult a Lexus and find a way to get excess toothpaste back into the tube.

The current rush to "push" children into the "educational system" is akin to leading lambs to slaughter for no discernible reason except the notion that this is "the best we can do."

The ancient Chinese had a story about this mentality: The greatest cook of his day was I Ya. His master praised him daily and ate the finest meals in all of China. One day, as the great cook stood in the glow of the master's admiring guests, the master said "Because of I Ya I have tasted every flavor known to man except the taste of human flesh."

Hearing this, I Ya went home and butchered his own son, cooked his flesh and served it to his master so that his master would lack nothing that I Ya could give him.


Grotesque? Yes. Excessive? Not really. Look at the story's dynamic and look at what's happening in Puerto Rico. Aren't We "serving up" Our children--Our Future--to a "master," an unthinking, uncaring, insatiable, gaping, leprous maw that simply consumes Us day after day? Who is this "master"? Why are we serving it?

You tell The Jenius. The question mark is out there and needs to be kept alive.

The Jenius Has Spoken.